How does solar power work?
Once solar panels have been installed on your home, or business, you are ready to start using solar power. Here’s how solar power works:
- The solar panels, which are made up of photovoltaic (PV) cells, convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity.
- The inverter then takes the direct current (DC) electricity and converts it into alternating current (AC) electricity, which is sent to the electrical panel.
- The electrical panel, also called a breaker box, uses the alternating current (AC) electricity it receives to power your lights and appliances.
- Your utility meter measures how much energy your system is producing and how much of it you are using. When your solar system generates more power than you need, all the extra energy produced will go to your utility company in exchange for credits with them. These credits are used to offset the energy you use at night.
The following is a visual representation of how solar power works:
Understanding differences in solar modules
Solar panels come in many different sizes, but the three most common ones are the 60, 72, and 96 cell panels.
- 60 cell solar panels: These solar modules are the most efficient (their cells have a higher power output), they’re the most produced, and the most competitive. Because of this, they are the typical choice for residential solar installations.
- 72 cell solar panels: These solar modules are found in a majority of commercial installations, where room availability isn’t much of an issue.
- 96 cell solar panels: These are the least commonly used solar modules. While their efficiency is similar to that of the 60 cell modules, they aren’t as widely manufactured.
Below are visual representations of the 60, 72, and 96 cell solar modules.
How does a solar cell work?
The solar cell is the heart of the solar panel. Solar cells are connected together in a series and parallel circuit to create one solar module. Here’s a more advanced visual representation of how solar power works inside the solar cell itself:
On-Grid Solar vs Off-Grid Solar
On-Grid Solar: If your solar system is on-grid, it means that it’s still connected to the utility company. Any extra energy produced by your system goes to the utility company in exchange for credits. These credits offset the utility company’s energy that you will still be using at night.
Off-Grid Solar: If your solar system is off-grid, it means that you are completely independent from the utility company. Instead of being connected to the utility grid, you will be connected to an advanced battery storage system. When your system produces extra energy, instead of sending it to the utility company (like on-grid systems do), it will go to your advanced battery storage system. This advanced battery storage system will then be what powers your home at night.