How Do Solar Panels Work?

man getting a solar panel to work

By 3 min read

Sunlight knocks electrons off the atoms contained in solar panels

This creates an electrical current, which is then converted into usable electricity

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Solar panels are the future – and the future is here.

They represent the fastest-growing alternative energy source in the world, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) – and no wonder.

Solar panels can reduce your energy bills, cut your carbon emissions, and even make you money, as you can sell any extra energy you create to power the rest of the country.

A YouGov survey from 2018 found that 62% of people in the UK would like to install solar panels – and that's becoming increasingly viable, as costs have plummeted by 70% since 2010.

The government’s new Smart Export Guarantee has also helped to make this the best time in history to buy solar panels.

But you don't want to buy a product you don't understand, so let us explain exactly how we're able to turn the dazzling power of the sun into clean, effective energy.

And whenever you feel like you understand how solar panels work, and you want to receive free solar panel quotes from the experts, just fill in this form.

man getting a solar panel to work

How solar panels work

Solar panels are rectangles made up of silicon modules containing solar cells. These cells are chock-full of densely packed atoms, which harness an atom-level reaction called the photovoltaic effect to transform the sun’s rays into electricity.

How does the photovoltaic process happen? Well, it relies on the fact that all light contains particles called photons. When sunlight hits the solar cells, its photons hit the atoms, removing their electrons.

Because science is wonderful, this displacement creates an electric current – direct current (DC) electricity, to be specific.

This kind of electricity can’t power your home, but a nifty piece of hardware called a solar inverter can convert a DC charge into alternating current (AC), which is exactly the type of power you need to keep the lights on.

Did You Know?

As of 2018, the UK now produces more energy from solar power than from coal.

You can store this ready-made electricity in a solar battery, and if there’s any left over, you can flog it to the National Grid – thus helping make the UK’s energy consumption even more sustainable.

This process works even when it’s cloudy, because all of the many different wavelengths of light that aren’t visible will still shine through cloud cover and charge up your solar panels.

Your solar array will even get a boost from the incredible cloud-edge effect.

This happens when a cloud starts or finishes passing over the sun. The wispy extremity of the cloud causes the sunlight to refract, briefly intensifying the power of the rays.

Next steps

You should now know everything you need to know about the science and technology behind the solar panel, a creation which all of humanity can be proud of.

By using the photovoltaic effect, solar panels are able to produce 12% of the UK’s electricity – and you can easily be part of this green revolution.

Just fill in this form, and local specialists will send you bespoke solar panel quotes.

Josh Jackman Senior Writer

Josh is The Eco Experts’ main man for smart home technology, data-driven analysis, and boilers. If it can make your life better and help the environment, he’s on it.