Solar energy usage is on the rise, and it’s not surprising. It’s not only the most abundant energy source on Earth; it’s also the most environmentally friendly.
The benefits for the increasing number of homes and businesses that install solar energy systems are clear: a smaller carbon footprint and dramatically lower energy bills. A high-quality solar system can last for a long time and demands very little maintenance.
If you’ve considered making the transition to sustainable energy, you might have wondered, “how does solar energy work?” This guide will break down the process step by step.
How Does Solar Energy Work, Step by Step?
Solar technologies like photovoltaic panels can convert sunlight into electrical energy. Let’s take a closer look at the process.
Sunlight Hits the Panels
When the sun shines on a solar panel, it activates the solar or photovoltaic cells inside. These cells are made of silicon and are capable of creating an electric field. They absorb sunlight during the day.
The Solar Cells Create Electricity
When light energizes the solar cells, electrons that are released from atoms are set in motion. This produces an electrical current.
An Inverter Converts the Electrical Energy
Solar panels’ electricity is called direct current (DC), but it is not suitable for home use. An inverter is a device used to change DC electricity into alternating current (AC) electricity appliances need.
Electricity Powers Your Home
Your electrical panel can now distribute converted electrical energy throughout your home, similar to how your electric company generates electricity through the grid. If you remain connected to the grid, you can automatically draw electricity from it when your solar energy system doesn’t produce enough. You won’t have to worry about turning your solar power on and off in the morning and night. There will also be no need to switch between the grid and solar power because your system will do this for you based on your energy consumption.
How Does Solar Energy Work at Night?
Now that you know how solar energy works, you’re probably wondering what occurs when there is no sunshine. Although solar panels technically don’t produce power at night, they can still provide energy to your home. One way this can happen is when solar panels store solar energy that you can access overnight.
The other solution involves net metering. This is a utility rate program wherein you feed excess electricity you generate back into the grid during the day. Power companies in most states provide credits for this surplus energy. Then, you take back electricity from the grid at night since your panels can’t generate energy.
Do Solar Panels Work in the Rain?
Although a clear, sunny day is ideal for producing solar energy, panels function despite the rain but won’t generate as much power as they would when the skies are clear. Even so, solar panels are popular in places with rainy climates.
Can a House Run on Solar Power Alone?
It’s certainly possible to meet all of your home’s energy needs with solar power alone. However, there are some critical factors to consider before you decide to go off the grid.
First, determine how much energy your home uses by assessing your current kilowatt usage from your local power company. Before installing solar panels, you’ll need to determine if you have enough space for them on your property. The more energy you use daily, the more panels you’ll need. Additionally, it’s ideal to install your panels in a bright, sunny area without obstructions so they can absorb the most solar energy.
Since you can’t produce energy during the night and on cloudy days, you’ll need to buy batteries to store electricity—factor in the cost of these batteries before deciding to go off-grid.
Do Some States Get More Solar Energy Than Others?
While it’s true that weather affects solar energy production, states that get less sun than others can still gain benefits from using solar panels. Thanks to net metering and other solar incentives, many people living in cloudy, cold locations still enjoy huge utility savings.
The fact is that the majority of people could easily convert to solar if they so choose. By doing so, you effectively own your energy source, reducing your reliance on the utility company. Many homeowners look forward to enjoying the benefits, particularly saving on their electric bills.
If you’d like a quote or have other questions about how solar energy works, contact us to find out more.