The Ultimate Guide to How Solar Panels Work

Reduced electricity bills, environmental sustainability, 24/7 renewable energy supply, and more is possible with a solar panel system. The solar energy that’s generated thanks to a photovoltaic panel (PV) system has no equivalent. Imagine how precious it is; just one hour of consuming the sun’s energy is enough to meet the energy needs worldwide for one year. Isn’t it insane? Now, imagine how useful it will turn out for your household or business? Yes, let’s not forget that you can conduct a solar panel installation for your business (commercial solar panel system) and your house (residential solar panel system).

But do you know much about solar panels? Well, it’d be great to learn a lot about PVs alongside solar energy to know what you will pay for. Let’s explore the solar world together!

Solar Panel 101

Not to overwhelm you with all the details about solar panels, let’s just acknowledge the basics and equip ourselves with the apt knowledge. 

About Solar Energy

Have you ever admired the sunlight? When the sun shines, it radiates a palette of beautiful colors and makes even the worst day feel like a blessing. Turns out, it is also a source of energy. The sunlight turns into energy – solar power – through the photovoltaic effect. Put scientifically, the photovoltaic effect is the process of generating electric current and voltage in a material when exposed to light – when exposed to the sunlight in the case of solar energy. And this magical process provides the world with a renewable resource to consume. To access solar power, you need to purchase a solar panel system. 

But do you know that there are many types of PVs? So, which one should you choose?

Solar Panel Types

The most common types of PVs include monocrystalline, polycrystalline, thin-film, amorphous silicon, and biohybrid. There are a few factors that you should consider while going for a particular type of solar panel. No matter which one you choose, you should ensure how affordable it is for you, whether it suits the space you’d allocate, and what you want to get from the solar panel installation. So, let’s go one by one to figure out which suits you. 

#1 Monocrystalline

These PVs are less spacious, more expensive, yet efficient enough.

#2 Polycrystalline

These ones are cheaper due to the simpler manufacturing processes; however, they require more space. You can consider these as a residential solar panel system rather than a commercial one because it is not efficient enough to be used for a business. 

#3 Thin-film

These PVs are so flexible due to the materials they’re composed of that you can choose thin-film ones no matter why you go solar. A considerable advantage is that thin-film modules provide partial coverage the best – no matter the shade, snow, dirt, etc.; these ones work almost equally efficiently like during times of total exposure to the sunlight. 

#4 Amorphous Silicon

The layers that these ones have increase efficiency. However, compared to other types, these are still less efficient. Plus, these require a lot more space yet can handle higher temperatures. 

#5 Biohybrid

Even though this may sound exaggerated, the truth is that these PVs provide 100% efficiency. To imagine how blessed you are to have biohybrid solar panels, I’d note that traditional photovoltaic panels (PVs) provide solely 40% efficiency. Don’t rush to assume that this type is costly – thanks to being created from plant-based materials rather than metals, biohybrid solar panels are a lot less expensive. 

#6 Solar Shingles

Roof solar panel is a trend nowadays. Solar shingles look modern and shinier on the roof, while still delivering the same solar energy to the consumer. If you’re the kind of person who prefers design over everything else, then you’ll love these. Of course, the price is higher for this type but definitely worth it. 

Of course, it’d be better to consult the solar panel company of your choice not to be misled. I’m pretty sure that the company you choose will provide you with additional information about a pool solar panel, hot water solar panel, solar panel pool heater, electric solar panel, and other extravagances present in the solar world. 

The 4-Step Mechanism Behind Solar Panels

Step 1 – Absorb Sunlight

The process of sustaining solar energy starts from absorbing sunlight. Initially, PVs absorb the sunlight as direct current (DC) electricity during daylight. The method of absorbing the sun’s energy comes into play because of the silicon cell layers that solar panels have. Every photovoltaic panel (PV) has one positive and one negative silicon cell layer forming an electric field. Such a controversial mechanism inside the solar panel creates the possibility of producing the electric current. 

Step 2 – DC to AC

Alternatives exist for the second step. For the first scenario, if you live or work in a building sustaining DC electricity, then just skip this part. 

However, if where you live or work doesn’t sustain DC electricity and instead sustains alternative current (AC) electricity, then keep reading. The second step is all about converting DC electricity to AC electricity. This happens with the help of an inverter or so-called AC Drives. These electronic devices are responsible for converting DC electricity to AC electricity to put solar energy into functioning. By the way, an inverter can either be installed on the solar panel or come separately. Clarify it with the solar panel company of your choice to know every little thing about your purchase. 

Step 3 – Energy Distribution

Seems like everything is in place: the sunlight is absorbed, DC electricity is converted to AC electricity. So, what’s missing? Now, it’s the time for the building to light up – the current runs through the electrical solar panel. Nothing special happens as after being converted to AC electricity, the solar energy gets distributed all over the space as it is in the case of electricity from the utility company. 

Step 4 – Energy Surplus and Shortage

Similar to the second step of this process, step 4 comes with alternatives. Here, it’s all about solar energy surpluses and shortages. It is important to know how solar energy can be balanced to ensure that you are sustained with enough resources every day.

The first solution is net metering. Some days are sunnier than others, right? PVs absorb abundant energy during those sunnier ones and send the surplus energy to the local electric grid. On the contrary, during other days, when it is impossible to get enough energy from the sun, the solar panel system takes saved energy from the grid and sustains you with power regardless of circumstances. As a result, no energy gets lost, no money gets spent – everything stays balanced.

The second solution is the solar panel battery – an energy-storage system. If you install one alongside the PV system, you will have nothing to think about. With a PV battery, you start capturing excess energy to consume when needed. The simplest example is to capture solar energy in the daytime and consume it at night. Such a system helps save energy, money, and time. If you decide to install one, be confident that you will maximize solar energy generation and consumption by at least 60%. 

The Benefits of Solar Panels

The science behind which solar panel type to choose or how solar panels work is good to comprehend. However, the best part is to know the benefits that purchasing a PV system will bring to you. 

#1 Reduction of Energy Bills

There is no charge for producing electricity. If you were obligated to pay monthly fees to the utility before consuming solar energy, you have no obligation while consuming solar power. The only thing you should take care of is solar panel installation alongside an incremental cost for kWh per square meter of panel surface. That’s it!

#2 Tax Credits and Rebates

Imagine consuming a resource and getting a return on investment – a possibility if you go solar. Different types of tax credits and rebates exist, depending on your location. For instance, the federal income tax credit provides 30% of total system costs from installation and equipment. Or, Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) get generated throughout the whole year, providing you the opportunity to sell the accumulated amount to utility companies and get a significant return on the initial investment. Such tax credits and rebates are many – just take your time to find ones that work in your city. You can even take your time and get a consultation with Ameco – a viable solar panel company for you.

#3 Accumulation in Savings
This benefit is a two-way thing. On the one hand, by lowering your energy bills, you have the possibility to save money. This means that you can save it with the bank, right? Great! On the other hand, installing PVs on the roof increases your house value substantially. With such a house value, you get the chance to sell the house at a much higher price than you could ever think of. This means that the resale value of your property rises, which is a long-term investment, right? Perfect!

#4 Environmental Sustainability 

Most importantly, when you go solar, you become environmentally sustainable. The primary benefit is that by consuming solar energy, you take the opportunity of combating greenhouse gas emissions and reducing pollution. People who always think about making the world a cleaner and greener place can consider switching to electric vehicles (EVs) and start using a solar panel for EV. These people will fight greenhouse gas emissions and reduce fossil fuel pollution on the road. And all of this without spending excess finances because you use solar energy.