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Posted | by Ben Nieporte

How Do Solar Panels Work?

If you’re looking to incorporate solar power for your home in Utah, you probably want to have a complete understanding of how the process works. The sun is the most powerful source of energy available. In fact, the sun yields enough energy per minute to power the whole earth for 30 years! Consequently, solar energy is the most efficient source for powering homes. Through the installation of solar panels, renewable energy is captured from the sun, causing the user to drastically reduce electrical bills, protect the environment, and increase property value.  These are a few of the reasons Solar Panels are so popular in Utah.

The possibility of a “solar revolution” was introduced decades ago. In the eyes of environmental enthusiasts everywhere, the hope is that one day we’ll all use free electricity from the sun. Though it seems to be a lofty possibility, it’s certainly not out-of-reach. On a sunny day, the sun’s rays release nearly 1,000 watts of energy for each square meter on the Earth’s surface. By employing the sun’s energy, we will be able to easily power buildings around the world for free. Solar panels provide the opportunity to harness this power.

To put it simply, solar panels permit photons (also known as particles of light) to free electrons from atoms, which creates a stream of electricity. Solar panels are composed of multiple small units called photovoltaic cells. (Photovoltaic means they change sunlight into useful electricity.)

Each photovoltaic cell is hugged by of two pieces of semi-conducting material—in most cases, silicon. To function properly, photovoltaic cells must create an electric field. In many ways similar to a magnetic field, which form from opposite poles, an electric field appears when opposite charges are separated. To get this field, manufacturers merge silicon with other necessary materials, giving each side of the photovoltaic cell either a positive or negative electrical charge.

By including phosphorous into the top layer of silicon on the photovoltaic cell, extra electrons are added, causing a negative charge. Borus is added to the bottom layer, causing fewer electrons, and resulting in a positive charge. Because of these two oppositely-charged layers, an electric field is at the intersection between the silicon layers. Next, when a photon of sunlight frees an electron, the electron field will push that electron out of the silicon intersection.

Another key aspect of photovoltaic cells is their ability to turn electrons into serviceable power. To do so, metal conductive plates on each side of the cell gather the electrons and move them to wires. Following this step, the electrons can flow as smoothly as any other source of electricity.

Not every roof has the proper angle of inclination to take complete advantage of the sun’s power. Orientations facing any direction can work, some less effectively than another. By being inclined at the proper angle as close to the area’s latitude as possible, the maximum amount of energy is captured year-round.

For houses with a completely-unshaded roof, one must decided what size system they desire. This decision become more complicated due to the fact that one’s electricity production varies based on weather.  Additionally, the electricity demand will also fluctuate. Fortunately, these problems are relatively simple to address. Meteorological data provides average monthly sunlight levels for a wide range of geographical areas. This measurement includes rainfall/cloudy days, humidity, altitude, and other more subtle factors. After collecting all measureable data, Synergy Power, a leading solar-installer in Utah, will provide clients with a free solar power estimate. Following this, one can determine how many PV modules will be needed, and what system voltage will be used. Because the Southwest is home to desert areas with very little rainfall, Utah is the ideal place for a solar company to install solar panels.

An obvious question surfaces: what happens when the sun isn’t shining?

Two main options are available to ensure that one will not be left without electrical power:

  1. A backup-generator when solar supplies run low
  2. Energy storage can be stored in the form of batteries

With the proper preparation, one can harness all their needed power while protecting the environment simultaneously. This is accomplished with solar panels.

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