How Solar Energy Works


With the ongoing focus on renewable energy sources, solar energy is something that is becoming more and more popular. You contact a local provider like this solar contractor in Utah, and they do the rest, no questions asked. While most of us know that it is something to do with the sun, how it actually works remains somewhat of a mystery. 

Here, we aim to take some of the mystery out of this excellent form of renewable energy by explaining what it is and how it works.

What is solar energy?

Solar energy is the most plentiful source of energy on the planet. At any given moment, approximately 173,000 terawatts of solar energy hit the Earth, which is 10,000 times more than what the world actually needs.  By harnessing this power and turning it into usable electricity for your home or business, you can play your part in reducing the pressure on fossil fuels and help eliminate global warming.

How does solar energy work?

Photons are tiny bursts of energy that fly 93 million miles from the sun to Earth in around 8.5 minutes. Every hour, enough photons collide with our planet to produce enough solar energy to meet the world’s energy needs for an entire year.

Contrary to popular belief, it does not need to be a bright sunny day for solar energy to be produced or for solar panels from your solar contractor in Utah to work. Of course, those sorts of conditions are optimum, but even on cloudy days, solar energy is still produced – perhaps 10 to 25% less – but it is still produced. Surprisingly, solar panels work better on cooler days. They produce more electricity in less time, as increased temperatures mean the panels generate less voltage, therefore producing less electricity.

How do solar panels work?

As photons strike a solar cell, they dislodge electrons from their atoms. An electrical circuit is formed when conductors are connected to the positive and negative sides of a cell. As electrons flow through such a circuit, electricity is generated. A solar panel is made up of several cells, and multiple panels (modules) can be wired together to form a solar array. The more panels you can mount, the better.

Direct current (DC) electricity is generated by PV solar panels. Electrons flow in one direction around a circuit in DC electricity. Electrons are driven and pulled by alternating current electricity, constantly changing direction, much like the cylinder of a car engine. When a coil of wire is spun next to a magnet, it generates alternating current (AC). This generator can be powered by a variety of energy sources, including gas or diesel fuel, hydroelectricity, nuclear, coal, wind, or solar.

AC energy was selected for the United States’ electrical power grid because it is less costly to transmit over long distances. Solar panels, on the other hand, generate direct current electricity. An inverter is then needed to convert the DC electricity into AC electricity.

Solar energy is becoming increasingly important in the quest to use renewable energy sources and lessen our dependence on fossil fuels for electricity, and knowing what it is and how it works is an essential part of moving it forward.