Looking to build a solar energy system equipped with solar panels and want to know how they work? Or are you just curious about solar energy and want to work towards healing the planet with renewable energy? Either way, you aren’t alone. So you don’t have to take the time, here is what I have learned from hours of digging online through scientific mumbo-jumbo summarized in one easy read that anyone can understand.
What are Solar Panels Made of?
Put simply …Silicon, the 2nd most abundant element on Earth (after oxygen). Silicon is cut into thin sheets called wafers. Two wafers are put through different processes to be oppositely charged and are stuck together to create a cell:
- P-Type (Positive) – Boron is added to make this wafer positively charged.
- N-Type (Negative) – Phosphorus is added to make this wafer as negatively charged as my old hockey coach after we lost.
How do These 2 Wafers Create Energy?
These two wafers are sitting together in harmony (it’s true opposites attract), UNTIL little particles from light, called photons, enter the solar cell causing mayhem. The photons knock millions of electrons on the N-Type side loose and desperate to look for a place to sit ...BUT they can’t find one. They keep travelling around moving from negative to positive wafers creating an electric current AKA electricity, AKA that stuff that powers everything in your house, AKA human’s BFF. Below is an image showing the flow of electric current, from the negative side to the positive to an energy source and back into the solar cell. Electricity needs a closed loop people!
Solar Cell Connection
Each solar cell produces about 0.5 volts, about enough to power a small outdoor light. Connecting 60, 72 or 96 cells which are standard panel sizes allows you to create some real power for practical uses like homes, RVs or Campers. Metal strips connect the positive wafer of one cell to the negative wafer of the next cell, creating one big conga line of electric current flow, as shown in the diagram below.
Solar Panels: How Much Energy Do They Produce?
Each solar cell is typically 15-22% efficient, depending on the type of cell. Meaning on a sunny day, the sun is shining down at 1000 Watts/sq-meter per hour. So on a 20% efficient panel with 1 meter surface area, that panel will generate 200 Watts every hour. We have a calculator coming soon so you can find out how many panels you need to fit your needs!
Interested in Building Your Own System?
Custom solar energy systems don’t have to be intimidating or confusing. I want to eliminate the frustration for you, that is why I am putting together this blog series “Simple Easy Solar Blog”. In this series I will walk you through all you need to know to LEARN about solar energy, CHOOSE what size/models are best suited for your needs and BUILD with the components of your choice.
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