How do solar panels work?

solar panels

Out of all renewable energy solutions, solar panels are a leading player in the transition to cleaner energy sources. They harness solar power to provide households and businesses a renewable way to generate electricity, significantly reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Solar technology helps cut down electricity bills and contributes to a healthier planet by decreasing harmful emissions.

But how do solar panels work?

Let’s see how solar panels convert daylight into usable energy and consider their potential impact on our daily lives now and in the future.

Key Points

What are solar panels?

Solar panels (known in some larger commercial arrangements as solar arrays) are sophisticated devices that convert daylight into electricity. These panels use photovoltaic (PV) cells to capture energy from direct sunlight.

As light from the sun hits the solar panels, it activates their PV cells and starts the conversion process that transforms solar energy into an electric current. This electric current can be used immediately, stored for later use, or fed back into the power grid, improving the overall supply of renewable energy.

By harnessing solar power in this way, solar panels reduce our dependence on non-renewable energy sources, promoting a sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to meeting our energy needs.

What are solar panels made of?

Photovoltaic cells

Photovoltaic cells, commonly known as solar cells, are the main components of PV panels. These cells are designed to capture solar energy from direct sunlight. Each solar cell contains a semiconductor material, typically silicon, which forms an electric field when exposed to light. This electric field allows electrons to move, creating an electrical current within the cell.

Electric fields

The electric field in each photovoltaic cell directs the flow of electricity. It does this by pushing the electrons in a consistent direction across the cell, which generates a direct current (DC).

The efficiency of this process depends on the quality of the electric field, which is why advanced materials and manufacturing techniques are vital in optimising the power output of solar panels.


Solar inverters are another key component of solar panel systems. Their main function is to convert the direct current (DC) generated by the solar panels into an alternating current (AC), the type of electrical current used in most homes and on the power grid.

There are several types of inverters, including central inverters and micro-inverters.

Central inverters connect solar panels to a single inverter, whereas micro-inverters are attached to individual panels. These devices help manage the flow of electricity whilst optimising the solar panel system’s overall power output and efficiency.

During peak daylight hours, excess energy generated by the panels can also be stored or sent back to the grid, enhancing the utility and effectiveness of solar power installations.

How do solar panels create electricity?

Solar power systems are designed to convert solar electricity from direct sunlight into usable electricity. But how?

The journey from daylight to usable electricity involves several key components, with solar inverters playing a pivotal role. This allows the energy produced by solar panels to be directly utilised for running appliances and other electrical systems.

How is excess solar electricity dealt with?

One of the challenges in solar technology is dealing with excess electricity produced during peak sun hours. Solar power systems often have storage solutions like batteries to capture and store this surplus energy.

Alternatively, the excess electricity can be sent back to the grid, contributing to the overall energy supply and sometimes earning credits for the system owner. This maximises the system’s power output while boosting its efficiency and utility, making solar technology a more responsive solution for energy needs.

By effectively converting and managing solar electricity, solar power systems ensure that the transition from conventional power sources to renewable energy is seamless and productive, reflecting advancements in solar technology and its growing role in our energy landscape.

How are solar panels installed and maintained?

Solar Panel Installation

A properly installed photovoltaic panel is essential for maximising their efficiency and power output.

Solar panel installation involves several key steps, from the site assessment to the panels being mounted and connected to the electrical system.

The orientation, angle, and location are calculated to capture the most daylight. The professional solar installers then ensure the panels are securely mounted, usually on rooftops or other strategic locations, to capture the most direct sunlight throughout the year.

Embrace solar power from Path Energy

Understanding the workings of solar panels and their benefits is just the beginning of harnessing the power of solar energy.

Path Energy offers a full suite of commercial solar solutions for businesses looking to transition to renewable energy. We provide a streamlined and efficient alternative to commercial energy, from the initial assessment and installation of high-quality photovoltaic panels to managing surplus electricity and ensuring optimal power output with our bespoke storage solutions.

Embrace the future of energy with Path Energy’s expert solar solutions, and start reaping solar power’s environmental and economic benefits today.

Chris Kemp
1 May 2024
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