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How Do Solar Panels Work?

Solar panels working
Written by Shikha Mehta

Did you know that you can save on at least $15000 on switching to solar energy, even though manufacturing costs are high? Well, in order to know how that is possible, you need to know how do solar panels work.

We all are making efforts to go green by switching to renewable sources of energy for electricity supply. Due to its enormous potential, countries are massively investing in solar energy.

So, how do we really tap solar power?

It can be done directly, indirectly or by using hybrid methods. Here, we will discuss the most common technology: solar panels (direct tapping of solar energy).

You need to know about two things here:  photovoltaic effect and solar cells.

The photovoltaic effect refers to the process of converting photons into voltage. In other words, it converts light into electricity.

Solar cells are made of silicon and crystal that generate electricity using the above-mentioned photovoltaic effect.

Multiple solar cells are combined to form a solar panel. To supply electricity to one house, multiple solar panels are required on the roof.

Now, you must be wondering how this photovoltaic effect works. So, let’s learn about the technology of tapping solar energy directly.

How do Solar Panels Work for your Home?

Solar panels receive sunlight and convert it into electricity. They produce direct current (DC). This is converted into alternating current (AC) by a solar inverter to electrify your house.


To know how the current is made, let’s first see how a solar panel is really made.

Components Used to Make Solar Cells

In order to make a solar cell, you need the following raw materials:

  • N-type Silicon: This is the top layer of the solar cell which is rich in electrons. In short, it is a negatively charged silicon.
  • P-type Silicon: This is the bottom layer of the solar cells that has holes for electrons. In short, it is a positively charged silicon.
  • Phosphorous: A coating of phosphorous over the N-type silicon can make it even more negatively charged.
  • Boron: A coating of boron beneath the P-type silicon makes it more positively charged.

How is a Solar Panel Made?

A solar panel is made by joining multiple solar cells. However, it requires the following for protection and better efficiency:

  • Anti-Reflective Layer: This is usually made of glass and coats the entire panel. This helps to absorb more light, also protecting the cells from rain and snow.
  • Insulative Layer: Solar panels use light to generate electricity, not heat. An increase in temperature can, in fact, reduce the efficiency of the panel. Hence, the insulative layer protects the solar panel from heat. It is beneath the glass coating and above the cell.
  • Protective Back Sheet: This is beneath the insulative layer, to protect the solar panel from humidity and moisture.

The Functioning of Solar Panels

Now that we know how the panel is made, let’s take a look into its functioning:

  • Sunlight contains millions of particles which are known as photons. Along with that, the sun also generates heat, causing humidity.
  • The glass layer of the solar panel absorbs maximum light, also preventing other substances and particles from entering the solar cells.
  • The insulative layer and protective back sheet prevent heat and humidity from entering the solar cells, letting the photons enter the cells.
  • The photons hit the top layer of the cells, which is negatively charged.
  • The electrons are energized due to these photons and start moving in one direction.
  • The flow of electrons creates a direct current, which passes through the metallic wires connected to the panel.
  • The panels are connected to the solar inverter which converts the DC into AC.
  • AC electrifies the house.
  • From here, the electrons flow back to the P-type layer of the solar cells.

The lifespan of a Solar Power Panel

Each solar cell can last for 25-30 years. They degrade faster in areas where climate conditions are extreme.

However, they can be recycled and reused again. There are plants that break down the materials used to make solar panels and make them ready for use in the same industry.

Cost of a Solar Power Plant

In various countries, the cost of solar plants varies. As of 2018, the most expensive solar plant installations were in Canada worth $2427. This is followed by Russia for $2302.

On the other hand, the cheapest installation cost is in India, for $793 followed by Italy for $870.

Countries around the globe have been reducing the cost of solar power. Panels are not only installed on rooftops but also in solar farms. The largest existing in the world is in Qinghai, China that produces 850 MW. A solar park is under construction in Dholera, India that will produce 175 GW of electricity.

Wondering how do solar panels work at such a large scale? Well, these solar farms are connected to many areas in the city, depending on their capacity.

If your city doesn’t have a solar farm, you can even buy your own solar panel online. Want to switch to an eco-friendly home? Let’s check out the store then!

About the author

Shikha Mehta

I discovered my talent in writing while I was in high school. Since then, I discovered the joy of sharing your knowledge with people around you. This is the reason why I love making my contributions to Insights of Technology. Being a certified content writer, I have been writing on several topics, science & technology being one of my favorites.

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