The first solar cells were manufactured by Bell Laboratories in the late 1950s and are still functional today. Since then, solar panel manufacturing and performance alike have become increasingly efficient, resulting in greater savings and ease for the average homeowner. Here’s how it works.
- Solar panels harness the energy contained in sunlight to create direct current electricity.
- Solar inverters convert this into alternating current electricity for use in your home.
- Your electrical panel manages and distributes this electricity throughout your home.
- A utility meter connects your home to the electrical grid and tracks your use of electricity.
Solar Energy Terms and Components
We can break it down further by looking at some key terms and components.
- Solar energy is the radiation emitted from the Sun and is often experienced as light, heat, and energy.
- Solar power works by harnessing the energy from the sun and turning it into usable electricity to power our daily lives.
- Solar panels, also called photovoltaics or PV panels, contain a network of silicon solar cells that are wired together and encased in a metal and glass frame.
- Solar panels can be grouped into solar arrays. Your solar installation may have one or more solar arrays, or groupings of solar panels, that work together to produce the energy for your home.
- When sunlight interacts with the silicon cells in your solar panels, it initiates a process called the photovoltaic effect through which electrons are agitated and set into motion as an electric current.
- This electric current flows through the panel wiring as direct current (DC) electricity, meaning it flows in one direction.
- For the electric current to be used in your home, it must be converted to alternating current or AC electricity. This is where your inverter comes in.
- Your inverter (or inverters) is based on your system size and converts the direct current (DC) electricity produced by your solar panels into alternating current (AC) electricity for use in your home.
- Your electric panel manages and distributes AC electricity throughout your home. The circuit breakers contained within are designed to halt the flow of electricity in case of a fault or surge.
- Your utility meter is your gateway to the power grid and provides a safe and accurate way to monitor the flow of electricity into and out of your home. (Yes, you will still be connected to the grid.)
The Benefits of Solar Energy
Solar energy technologies offer a clean, renewable energy source that can help you save money on electricity costs, increase your independence from the utility grid, protect the natural environment from the effects of climate change, and boost the value of your home.
Solar panels require little to no maintenance and can continue to generate power for 25+ years. Many Palmetto customers also benefit from net metering programs, tax incentives, and rebates that further reduce the cost of your investment—putting money back in your pocket.
Browse Solar 101 Topics
Use the links below to navigate through Solar 101 topics and resources. Please direct any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.