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Photovoltaic panels – How they work

Since the cost of solar panels has plummeted in recent years, many home and business owners across Thailand are starting to look at solar power as a viable energy alternative. It is a reliable energy solution because it utilizes the sun, which is a clean and renewable natural resource. 

Many people have a solar air conditioner Thailand because of the hot and humid climate in Asia. This effective cooling unit has been made a reality because of the major improvements in products’ technical efficiency over the years. Manufacturers are always striving to design and assemble products that consumers can get value out of. 

As solar gets commercialized, the big question among potential buyers is, how do photovoltaic panels work? This article will address this burning question and many others concerning the production of energy using solar panels. 

Let’s dive in!

The Mechanics of Converting Solar Energy into Electricity 

Put simply; photovoltaic panels work by allowing particles of light (photons) to knock electrons from atoms. This process generates a flow of current. 

Solar panels comprise smaller units called photovoltaic cells that are responsible for converting solar energy from the sun into electricity. The cells are linked together to make solar panels that get installed on roofs of buildings. 

Every photovoltaic cell resembles a sandwich that is made up of silicon slices. Silicon is useful in this case because it is a semiconducting material that allows the generated electricity to flow when sunlight strikes it’s surface. 

For a photovoltaic panel to work, the cells need to establish an electric field that’s quite similar to a magnetic field. There exist poles with opposite charges, and as we all know, unlike poles attract. This attraction is what constitutes an electric field. 

Manufacturers dope the silicon with other materials to give the sandwich a negative or positive electric charge.  

Phosphorus is used on the top surface because it seeds into the surface of the silicon layer to add more negative charges to the top layer. For the bottom layer, manufacturers use Boron, which adds more positive charges.

Additional Important Parts to Solar Panels

Aside from the two silicon layers that make up each photovoltaic cell, a typical solar module also includes a glass casing. This is a protective covering that shields the photovoltaic cells from damage. 

Under this glass shield, there is a protective black sheet and an insulation layer that shields the cells from humidity and heat dissipation. The insulation helps maintain the efficiency of the cells in the high-temperature environment. 

Solar panels also come with an anti-reflective coating that boosts sunlight absorption, and by extension, increases the efficiency of the photovoltaic cells. This layer allows each cell to receive maximum exposure to the sun. 

The photovoltaic cells are manufactured in polycrystalline or monocrystalline formations. The former cell formation has fragments of silicon, while the latter has a single silicon crystal. 

Solar panels made up of monocrystalline cells are more expensive than those made up of polycrystalline cells because they have more room for electrons to move around. This translates to higher efficiency as compared to their counterparts. 

How Grid Connection Works with Solar Panels

Now that you understand how electricity generation with photovoltaic panels works, let’s clarify how the grid factors into the solar process. Any home or business that’s connected to the main electric grid has something called a utility meter. 

Energy providers use it to measure the power that gets supplied to your home. When you decide to install solar panels on your roof, they get connected to the utility meter. So aside from measuring how much you get from your energy provider, you can also determine how much electricity your solar panels generate. 

The utility meter has made the net metering incentive a reality. What is net metering, you may ask? Well, this is a scenario where home and business owners with solar panels send their extra power to the grid in exchange for credits on your electric bill. If your solar panels generate more electricity than you need, you can sell the excess power to your energy provider. 

This way, when you experience low electricity production from your solar energy system, you can use your credits to meet your electricity demands. In essence, net metering offers people with solar panels a free storage solution for energy. 

The main concern many people who want to adopt solar energy is what to do at night or on days when the sun doesn’t come up. A free storage solution improves the economics of solar. Net metering is no doubt a game-changer because now anyone with solar panels won’t waste energy because there is nowhere to store it.

Wrapping Up 

Photovoltaic cells are the essence of solar panels because here is where the magic happens. Understanding how these cells convert solar energy into electricity helps you appreciate solar energy, and you’ll know the kind of solar panels to buy. 

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