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How Solar Energy is Produced with Solar Panels (Homeowners Guide)

March 9, 2022

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Are you a homeowner wondering how solar energy is produced? Many homeowners are curious about solar power and if it’s right for their home. However, not knowing how solar panels work can often hold them back from investing in solar! In turn, they might miss out on enjoying clean, green, affordable power for their property.

With this in mind, note some details about solar power and how it’s harnessed for residential properties. This information can help you better understand how and why solar power can work for you! Also, be sure to discuss any additional questions you have with a solar panel installer. He or she is no doubt happy to help you decide if solar is right for your property.

How Does Solar Energy Work Step by Step?

To understand solar energy and how it’s harvested, note how solar panels work step by step. This information can help you see that harness energy from the sun isn’t as complicated as you might think!

Step 1: Sunlight hits the panels and begins the process

First note that solar panels are constructed with what are called silicon cells. A metal frame with a glass front encases these cells. Additionally, a specialty plastic film covers the glass, protecting it against breakage.

Lastly, wiring runs throughout the panels. This wiring moves electricity along as it’s produced. Solar power conversion starts when sunlight hits those panels. In turn, those silicon cells absorb this light, activating the solar power process.

Step 2: Creating an electrical current

Inside those cells that make up solar panels are two layers of silicon, one positively charged and one negatively charged. These opposite charges form an electric field.

As sunlight hits those cells, this creates energy. In turn, this energy causes electrons to break away from atoms in that cell or wafer. The electric field created by those opposite charges set those atoms in motion. Consequently, this process creates an electric current.

solar panels on a local home

Step 3: Converting electricity

To understand the next step in this process, first note the difference between AC and DC power. AC stands for alternating current, or electricity that changes direction periodically. DC stands for direct current, or electricity that flows in one direction.

Alternating or AC current powers your home and all its appliances and electronics. However, the electricity created by solar panels starts out as DC power! In turn, your solar array needs what is called an inverter, which inverts or changes DC power to AC. The inverter switches the direction of DC current back and forth rapidly, creating AC current.

Step 4: Electric flow and net metering

Once that inverter converts DC power to AC, it flows through panel wiring to your home. In some cases, that wiring might connect to solar batteries. As with household batteries, these store power created by those solar panels. In turn, your home’s electrical wiring draws power from those batteries as needed.

However, most residential solar arrays work with a net metering system. Wiring from the panels connect to your home’s circuit box and meter, which is connected to your local utility company. Rather than powering your home directly, that electricity goes back to the electric company.

When you use electricity in the home, your meter moves forward, recording the power used. As your solar panels create power, the meter moves backward, crediting your account. In turn, you then get a bill from your power company for the difference.

As an example of how this works, suppose you use $150 of electricity in one month. However, your solar panels produced $100 worth of power in that month. In turn, you would receive a bill for the $50 difference.

How Does Solar Work in Simple Terms?

If you need solar explained in even simpler terms, consider this condensed version of the process:

  • Specialty cells inside solar panels capture sunlight. That light makes atoms move, creating electricity.
  • Next, the electricity goes through an inverter, which moves it around. This process converts that power from electricity that flows in one direction to electricity that changes direction periodically.
  • Lastly, this electricity flows through wires to your home. It then goes to your power company, which credits you for however much electricity those panels produce every month.

Along with this explanation, note that solar panels need sunlight exposure to work. However, those panels only hold so many cells or wafers. In turn, each panel produces only so much power no matter its sun exposure.

Consequently, when planning a solar array, you need to ensure they’re installed so that they receive maximum sun exposure. On the other hand, don’t assume that lots of sun exposure means unlimited solar power! Your solar panel installer can note how much power various panel types might produce for your property.

How Is Solar Energy Renewable?

Renewable energy refers to energy that replenishes naturally rather than being “used up” or destroyed. Nonrenewable refers to energy sources that you can only use once. Additionally, nonrenewable refers to energy sources that the earth doesn’t replenish as fast as humans use them.

As an example, coal is not a renewable energy source. Once you burn a piece of coal, it’s used up or gone completely. Also, since humans use trees faster than they can grow naturally, wood is not a “renewable” energy source.

On the other hand, solar panels don’t somehow “use up” sunlight. No matter how much energy those panels absorb, they’ll never “run out” of sunlight. Also, the sun produces more light than humans consume for solar energy. In turn, there is nothing humans need to do to replenish that energy source!

converting solar energy

What Are 3 Advantages of Solar Power?

Solar power offers many advantages over other energy sources. Additionally, there are many reasons to invest in residential solar panels. Consider the top 3 advantages and reasons to invest in solar for your home.

1. Solar means clean, green energy

While electricity itself doesn’t produce pollutants, power plants that make electricity are responsible for tons of emissions annually! According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the electric power industry produced 1.55 billion metric tons of emissions in 2020.

On the other hand, solar power works without producing any fumes, emissions, or pollutants. Additionally, choosing solar means less reliance on nonrenewable energy sources including coal and other fossil fuels.

2. Solar saves you money!

While most homeowners face upfront costs for solar, energy produced by those panels means lots of cost savings. One consideration is that you’ll see an immediate reduction in energy costs. Two, you can upgrade appliances without worrying about increased electric bills!

If you’ve dreamed of an in-home spa, chef-inspired appliances, or home theater but are worried about energy costs, consider solar. Investing in solar panels means enjoying all those and more, without skyrocketing electric bills.

3. Solar panels increase property values

According to a 2019 report on Zillow, homes with solar panels sell for over 4% more than comparable homes without! That’s $4000 more you might receive for every $100,000 of your home’s asking price! Additionally, increased property values can also help you build equity faster over time.

Added solar panel benefits

You might note some added solar panel benefits for your property. One advantage is that solar panel installation creates jobs, stimulating your local economy. Two, solar panels actually protect roofs from damage caused by wind and heavy rains.

Also, note that investing in solar panels can encourage your neighbors to do the same! In turn, your city will enjoy even more pollution reduction and new job production.

Can Solar Power the World?

It’s difficult to provide a definitive answer as to whether or not solar could provide all the energy needed worldwide. However, a 2021 article in Forbes magazine noted that it’s certainly possible, at least theoretically.

The article noted that a team of experts estimated the power produced by solar panels covering all the world’s available rooftops. First, they figured those rooftops might offer 0.2 million square kilometers of space, or half the size of the UK. Next, the team calculated that solar panels covering that area would produce about 27 petawatt hours of electricity per year. This is more than the world’s energy consumption in 2018!

Obviously, there would be challenges to using solar panels to supply the world’s energy needs. One consideration is rising energy demands, brought on by upgraded electronics worldwide. Two, not all roofs are in good condition so as to support a solar panel installation. Lastly, not every country in the world has qualified installers and a power grid able to support solar energy production.

However, these figures certainly prove that solar energy is an excellent investment and one that every property owner should consider. The more demand for solar panels, the more supported the solar industry. In turn, more people will learn how solar works and how to install panels.

Additionally, supporting the solar industry encourages manufacturers to improve their product. Consequently, those panels might become more effective at harnessing solar power. They can then produce even more solar, helping to reduce the world’s reliance on nonrenewable energy source even more!

Do Solar Panels Contribute to Global Warming?

Some people believe that solar panels contribute to global warming because they provide shade and end up in landfills. This is a misconception that shouldn’t stop anyone from investing in solar.

First note that too much shade can interfere with weather patterns in local areas. However, solar panels installed on a home’s roof shouldn’t interfere with ground temperatures! In truth, keeping your home shaded can mean using the air conditioner less often. In turn, you’ll enjoy lower utility costs from the solar power and from not using your appliances as much.

Also, note that solar panels don’t typically end up in landfills. Instead, they’re often recycled or broken down for their recyclable materials. Solar panel materials including their glass faces and metal frames are very valuable to recycling facilities!

Additionally, note that solar advantages should offset any such worries. Using solar means decreasing your use of fossil fuel energy including electricity produced with coal. In turn, solar means decreasing pollutants and resultant global warming.

high electricity bill without solar panels

Are Solar Panels Good for Every Home?

While solar panels offer excellent benefits, they might not be right for every home. One consideration is if your home’s roof can support the number of panels you’ll need. Two, a roof should be in good condition before solar panel installation.

Additionally, keep in mind that solar panels need sunlight to operate effectively. If your home’s roof is obscured by something you cannot remove, you might reconsider solar panels. As an example, nearby office buildings or trees you can’t trim might obscure those panels. In turn, they might not produce enough power to compensate for their installation price.

Also, consider that solar panels are a long-term investment. You’ll enjoy more cost savings once you’ve paid for their installation in full. In turn, reconsider their installation if you might sell your home and move to an apartment or condo anytime soon.

How Much Do You Save With Solar Energy?

Your solar energy savings vary according to your installation costs, energy used, and power produced by your panels. However, most Americans can expect to save around $2000 over the lifetime of solar panel ownership.

While this might not seem like a lot, note that many homeowners don’t pay more than a hundred dollars or so for electricity! That $2000 can represent all or most of that power bill. Additionally, this sum doesn’t take into account increased property values and equity you might build over the years.

Alliance Solar is happy to provide this information about how solar energy is produced and hope that you found it helpful. If you still have questions about solar panels, give us a call! Our solar panel installation contractors can schedule a FREE in-home consultation and explain all the benefits of solar to you. Additionally, our crew can help you choose the right solar array for your property. To find out more or get your property started with clean, green solar, contact us today.

 

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