How are solar panels made?


By transforming daylight into electricity, solar panels have become a popular sustainable solution for the world’s energy needs. But how are solar panels made?

Advancements in solar panel manufacturing have propelled the growth of solar energy. This meticulous process converts raw materials into efficient photovoltaic cells, the building blocks of solar panels that generate renewable energy from sunlight.

This Path Energy blog will explore the solar panel manufacturing process in depth, explaining the steps and innovative techniques that transform simple materials into complex instruments capable of powering our modern world.

Silicon: The Foundation of Solar Panels

The journey of manufacturing solar panels begins with silicon, the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust.

To harness solar energy effectively, silicon must first be transformed into a highly pure and usable form. This begins by extracting silicon from quartz sand, which is then purified and melted into molten silicon. This molten silicon eventually turns into silicon crystals, the core material used in solar panels.

Monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicon?

Two main types of crystalline silicon are used in solar panels: monocrystalline and polycrystalline.

Monocrystalline silicon is made from a single, continuous silicon crystal and is known for its high efficiency. This form of silicon involves melting silicon into a molten state and then carefully cooling it to form a single, uniform crystal structure.

Polycrystalline silicon, on the other hand, is made by cooling molten silicon more rapidly, resulting in multiple crystals. This method is less expensive and slightly less efficient but has improved significantly over time.

Each silicon wafer, sliced from these silicon crystals, acts as a photovoltaic cell within a solar panel, ready to convert daylight into electricity. Precisely crafting these wafers enables solar panels to capture and convert solar energy efficiently, making crystalline silicon a vital part of solar panel technology.

Through this intricate process, silicon solar panels continue to be a fundamental part of our shift towards renewable energy sources, promising a cleaner, sustainable future.

Photovoltaic Cells: The Core of Solar Panels

Solar cells, or photovoltaic (PV) cells, directly convert energy from daylight into electricity. Manufacturing these cells focuses on optimising their efficiency and power output to ensure maximum energy conversion.

A solar cell’s journey begins with applying an anti-reflective coating to the silicon wafers. This coating minimises the loss of daylight by reducing reflection, allowing more light to be absorbed and converted into electric current.

In addition to traditional crystalline silicon cells, thin-film cells offer an alternative approach to solar module production. Thin-film panels are made by depositing layers of photovoltaic material, such as cadmium telluride or copper indium gallium selenide, onto a substrate.

Each solar cell in a panel works to convert direct sunlight into direct current (DC). These cells’ collective power output determines the solar panel’s overall efficiency and effectiveness in generating electricity.

Assembling a solar panel

Assembling solar cells into a solar panel is a precise process that maximises their overall efficiency and power output. This stage of solar panel manufacturing involves organising and connecting the individual cells to form a cohesive and functional unit.

Feeling positive

As we know, each solar cell is designed to generate an electrical charge when exposed to daylight. This is achieved by creating an electric field within the cell, which is formed by doping the silicon with materials that impart a positive charge on one side and a negative charge on the other. This arrangement causes electrons to move across the cell when illuminated, generating electricity.

The raw materials used in the solar cells are carefully chosen to make sure each cell performs best and can handle environmental conditions over time. As the cells are assembled, they are connected in series to improve the electrical output. This process allows the electric current to flow throughout the panel efficiently.

Protective layers

Protective layers are added during the assembly process to protect the solar cells and ensure their longevity. These layers shield the cells from physical damage and environmental conditions, such as moisture and temperature fluctuations, which could otherwise degrade the cells and reduce the panel’s effectiveness.

The assembly of these components ensures that the solar panel will maintain performance throughout its life, boosting solar cell efficiency and the overall energy production of the panel.

Installing a Junction Box

The junction box is another important component in solar panel design. It manages and protects the electrical connections that funnel the generated power.

The junction box allows for effective energy transfer on the solar panel, so the current produced by the solar cells is efficiently relayed to the power grid or storage systems.

The junction box also acts as a gateway on the solar panel where the direct current (DC) output from the solar cells is directed. This must be handled correctly to maintain the high-efficiency ratings expected in modern solar installations, as these ratings directly influence the panel’s ability to convert solar energy into electricity effectively.

Quality Assurance

Solar panels undergo extensive testing after installing the junction box to confirm their efficiency rating and overall performance reliability.

These tests are designed to ensure that the solar panels can deliver the best output under varied environmental conditions, certifying their effectiveness in real-world settings.

The efficiency rating, a critical measure derived during these tests, quantifies the percentage of sunlight that the panel can convert into usable electricity. This rating is a key factor for users looking to understand the potential environmental impact and cost savings of their investment in solar technology.

High-efficiency ratings mean more effective conversion of solar energy, reducing the need for fossil fuels and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

Embrace the Future with Path Energy

Path Energy is at the forefront of the solar revolution, offering a wide range of solar technologies tailored to meet the unique needs of your business’s energy output.

Choosing Path Energy means working with a partner who understands the nuances of solar technology and provides efficient solutions designed to maximise your investment.

With our quick installation timelines, extensive stock availability, and a 25-year performance guarantee, we ensure that your solar transition is seamless and economically and environmentally beneficial.

Our commitment to advancing solar technology and our tailored solutions position us uniquely to help your business harness the power of the sun effectively. Whether your premises have flat or pitched roofs, our flexible solar panel solutions adapt to your specific needs, ensuring optimal output and significant savings on energy bills.

Invest in solar energy with Path Energy and join us in paving the way towards a sustainable and profitable future. With our proven track record and innovative approach, we are your ideal partner in unlocking the potential of solar power, reducing your carbon footprint, and achieving energy independence.

Chris Kemp
8 May 2024
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