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HOW SOLAR ENERGY IS PRODUCED

The  solar energy  is generated when sunlight strikes the solar panels, which then convert solar energy into electricity suitable for our homes. This photovoltaic transformation is the way in which solar energy is produced. In this post, we will analyze in depth how a domestic solar system harnesses the sun’s energy.

HOW SOLAR ENERGY IS PRODUCED

The process of creating energy from sunlight begins with the most important part of a solar installation:  solar panels . A typical solar panel is made of monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicon housed in a metal frame with a glass housing.

When sunlight hits the thin layer of silicon at the top of a panel, it releases electrons from silicon atoms. Electrons have a negative charge, which means they are attracted to one side of the silicon cell. This creates an electric current that is captured by the solar panel wiring.

Known as the «photovoltaic effect», the electrons that flow and have been released by sunlight are the basis of the electricity generated from the solar panels. The more sun rays hit the solar panels, the more electrons will be free, so it is important to take into account factors such as shadow and local cloud cover when designing a solar energy system.

Different solar panels produce electricity at different speeds depending on their efficiency and quality. High quality solar panels will often cost a little more, but in the long run they will save you money because they produce electricity more efficiently.

Investors convert solar panel energy into usable electricity

Once the loose electrons have been collected in individual panels, the resulting current is known as direct current. The electricity we use to power devices, charge electric vehicles and turn on our lights is alternating current. The electricity generated by loose silicon electrons is DC electricity and must be converted to AC electricity before we can use it.

This conversion is done using devices called  inverters . The inverters can be configured as chain inverters, microinverters or power optimizers, but each configuration performs the same general function of converting DC electricity to AC electricity. Once the DC electricity passes through the inverters and becomes AC electricity. In this way, solar energy can be harnessed at home or in the general grid.

Other solar panel technologies

Most of the solar panels available are made of crystalline silicon, but there are some other types of solar panels that produce electricity from the sun.

Cadmium Telluride Solar Panels (CdTe)

CdTe panels use a material other than silicon to produce electricity. While they do not have very high efficiency ratings (yet), CdTe panels can capture solar energy at shorter wavelengths than silicon panels. In addition, manufacturing costs are low.

Copper and indium diselenide solar panels (CIGS)

With greater efficiencies than CdTe panels, CIGS panels are a promising panel option. Unfortunately, high production costs have prevented CIGS panels from reaching the general public. CIGS panels use a different copper-based material to generate electricity.

Organic photovoltaic cells (OPV)

Instead of using an inorganic material such as silicon or copper, OPV cells use thin layers of organic vapor to generate an electric current from sunlight. OPV cells have not yet been widely used due to low efficiency and short service life compared to other panel technologies.

All these solar technologies fall under the umbrella of thin film panels, and are a very small part of the solar energy market   in general. This is mainly because they are not profitable today. In the future, these options may be the technologies that dominate solar energy, but for now silicon solar panels dominate the industry.

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