Wednesday, 26 November 2014

How do solar panels work?

Solar panels allow people to convert sunlight, that is solar energy, into electricity that can then be used to power homes and other things. Here’s a brief explanation for how they work as well as why they are important as a renewable energy source.

Solar PV Panels

What happens is that sunlight comes from the sun, through our atmosphere, and then hits a solar panel. Some of the light hits the panel and is reflected off, but some of it is absorbed by the panel. The cells are made of semiconductors including silicon. The light is absorbed by the semiconducting materials.
When the material absorbs the electrons from the sunlight, electrons in the material are knocked loose and begin flowing, which is what creates an electric flow.  So electrons from the sunlight knock into electrons in the cell and everything begins an electric surge, essentially.
The efficiency of this process is slowly going up and up over the years so that more of the energy from the sunlight can be absorbed by the panel, allowing less of it to be lost.

This process is important because it allows people to get electricity from something that is nearly infinitely renewable like sunlight. Every morning, we get more sunlight from the sun. While this process won’t last absolutely forever, it will likely last for billions of years to come which is pretty much guaranteed to be long enough for us.

This is not the case for many other energy sources like fossil fuels which we use up and then don’t get any more of ever.

It is this function of solar panels that cause governments to create feedin tariff laws. These laws give long term contracts to anyone producing renewable energy such as through solar panels at a high enough rate to be worth it.

Tariffs such as this one also give other financial benefits to renewable energy producers in order to encourage them to keep doing what they do in the long run.

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