We keep hearing about renewable energy, and how solar panels can help homeowners reduce their carbon footprint and save (or even make) money. But what is a solar panel, solar cells, solar modules, and solar photovoltaic systems? There are so many words associated with solar that it can be a bit difficult to understand what they all mean. So here it is!
What is a Solar Cell?
It starts with a solar cell. A solar cell, also known as a photovoltaic (PV) cell is an electrical device that converts the energy in light into electricity. These cells are made of semiconducting material, which means they can carry electricity.
Because they do carry electricity, it is very important that they are installed by a trusted solar company or certified electricians, to prevent injuries and fatalities.
These solar cells are put together to form a module, which you would see as a stand-alone square or rectangle. We put these solar modules together to form a solar panel. The solar PV units used all together form what is called a solar array.
So, What is a Solar Panel?
A solar panel, also known as photovoltaic (PV) panel, is a group of solar cells that are connected together to generate a larger amount of electricity. They are made up of many individual solar cells, typically ranging from 36 to 72 cells per panel. The cells are connected in a specific pattern to form a module, and multiple modules are connected to form a solar panel. Solar panels are used to power homes, businesses, and other applications.
A full solar PV system includes the solar array, plus all of the mounting equipment, hardware, inverters, and grid connection.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity through a process known as the photovoltaic effect. Here’s how a solar panel works:
- The sunlight strikes the solar panel and is absorbed by solar cells made of silicon, which is a semiconductor material.
- The absorbed sunlight causes the electrons in the silicon to become excited and move around, generating a flow of electricity.
- The solar cells are connected in a series to form a solar panel, and multiple panels can be connected to form a solar array.
- The electrical energy generated by the solar panel flows from the panel into an inverter, which converts it from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) that can be used by homes and businesses.
- The AC electrical energy is then fed into the building’s electrical system, where it can be used to power lights, appliances, and other devices. Any excess energy can be stored in a battery for later use or fed back into the electrical grid.
What Materials are Solar Panels Made Out of?
What are solar cells made of? The most prevalent material used in the production of solar cells is crystalline silicon. This is a semi-conducting crystalline form of silicon either made of small crystals or a continuous crystal. Mono-crystalline and poly-crystalline are the two most commonly used types of crystalline silicon.
Mono-crystalline cells tend to be black in color. In this form, the silicon is formed into bars and then cut into wafers. It is often more efficient and therefore more expensive.
The second common crystalline silicon used is Poly-crystalline. This type of module is typically blue in color. Poly-crystalline is formed by melting silicon fragments together to form wafers, and is often less expensive because it is slightly less efficient.
Which material should you look for as a consumer? You may think you need the polycrystalline in order for your solar PV system to work well, but this is often not the case. The solar needs for your business or home will vary.
While monocrystalline modules are typically more efficient, oftentimes polycrystalline modules are just as effective. Ask your solar PV installation provider if you have any concerns about which ones they are recommending, and why they are suggesting either product for your solar PV system.
If you’re still not sure what you need, leave it to us! We will design a system custom to your needs and property. We’ll answer all your questions, and leave you with a high-functioning solar PV system that will meet all your electricity needs for years to come!
Call us for more information!