How Do Solar Panels Work?

By Dzhingarov

Have you seen solar panels on roofs and wondered, “How exactly do those hi-tech expanses of shiny glass generate power?” How do solar panels work?

As sunlight hits a solar panel, its silicon cells create a direct current that flows through it and is collected via wiring. If your home is connected to the electrical grid, excess power produced is sent back through this method to your utility provider.

Solar Cells

Solar panels use photons from sunlight to convert them into electricity, using semiconducting materials like silicon (atomic number 14 on the periodic table). As photons from sunlight strike these semi-conducing layers, photons energize solar cells causing electrons to be liberated from semiconductor wafer atoms in order to generate electricity that powers calculators and spacecraft alike. Solar cells are then assembled together in groups called modules and organized into an array for further use.

Many solar energy systems are connected to the electrical grid, meaning if your panels produce more electricity than you require at any given moment, any excess goes back into it. Other systems feature battery storage to save power for later use on cloudy or overcast days.

Solar panels typically consist of layers of silicon cells encased in metal frames and glass casing, connected by wiring to allow current to pass. The silicon cells are organized in groups called arrays and mounted to rooftops or open spaces for mounting.

Solar cells serve a key purpose: they convert photons from sunlight into electricity through what’s known as the photovoltaic effect and generate their power this way.

Every silicon cell consists of two layers of semiconductor material with different electronic properties – the top layer bearing positive charges while its counterpart on the bottom has negative charges. When sunlight strikes a silicon cell, it can energize its silicon layers causing electrons from negative layers to escape and form an electric field that then produces electricity flow.

Manufacturers add various elements to semiconductor materials in order to increase solar cell efficiency, such as boron. Boron helps silicon cells maintain their shape, leading them to produce more electricity over time. Gallium also has similar properties but doesn’t react with oxygen to form small defects that reduce output over time.

At this stage, each solar module receives an anti-reflective coating to prevent photons from simply reflecting off of its shiny wafer without ever reaching it. Furthermore, metal contacts are added to each cell; these act as conduction funnels for any electricity generated within them and connect directly to the wiring and electrical systems within an array.


Solar power goes beyond those flashy panels you see dotting roofs and lighting the streets. Homeowners looking to become energy self-sufficient can utilize various methods for installing a solar energy system that produces clean electricity that could last over 30 years.

Installing a residential solar energy system takes considerable planning and effort, and requires extensive research. New homeowners may focus on finding the most cost-effective suppliers and equipment, but equally important is understanding how a system operates so you can be assured it’s providing power to your home.

Solar energy systems rely on solar cells, which convert sunlight to electricity. Constructed out of semiconductor materials like silicon, these panels are installed onto panel frames with glass covers to protect them. When sunlight hits these solar cells, photons (very small packets of light energy) strike these solar cells and activate electrons within their semiconductor material; as photons hit these solar cells they cause free electrons in their semiconductor material to form direct current electricity (DC), which must then be converted to alternating current electricity by means of an inverter in order to power home appliances.

As soon as electrons are collected by your solar panels, they’re routed through a complex series of wiring and connections into electricity that powers your home – thus necessitating careful installation by an experienced electrician who also follows local and national electrical codes when designing and installing your PV system.

Once installed, solar panels work by connecting a home solar power system to your utility meter is the final step in installing one. This enables your energy provider to monitor how much power you’re producing and credit any excess. With small systems and surplus electricity production, net metering may even supply your home with electricity directly from the grid – an attractive solution for people living in remote locations without access to central grid power sources.


Solar panels that dot rooftops and roadside signs – and even help power spacecraft – convert sunlight to electricity to power our homes and other buildings. This is how solar panels work. Their output, direct current (DC), must then be converted to alternating current (AC). An inverter device does this work efficiently.

Solar inverters are large pieces of electrical equipment similar to power converters that convert energy from multiple solar panels into electricity that can be distributed directly to homes and businesses. Their inputs allow multiple solar panels to connect, with outputs connecting directly to homes or businesses as an output. A solar inverter also takes care of many active processes associated with PV systems such as MPPT and battery charging; as well as protecting against “islanding,” where PV systems continue to feed energy back into the grid even during local power outages.

Solar energy systems consist of many small interconnected cells that combine to harness the sun’s energy and create electricity. Each cell consists of two semiconducting materials (typically silicon), sandwiched together between each slice with different elements that give positive or negative electric charges to different layers – for instance, boron gives positive charges to top layers while phosphorus distributes electrons in bottom layers to allow free electron flow within cells for current creation, according to the University of Minnesota Duluth research.

Once electrons have made their way through the silicon, they’re channeled towards the edge of the panel and into a conductive wire which then leads to an inverter, where they’re transformed into AC electricity that can power household lights, appliances, and air conditioning units – or stored for later use, when the sun doesn’t shine as brightly.

Most residential solar energy systems are connected to the grid for backup electricity when necessary, which allows homeowners to save money while simultaneously contributing clean, renewable energy resources – this process is known as net metering.


Solar meters monitor both your electricity usage and output to the grid and should be considered when thinking about how solar panels work. Most homeowners who opt for grid-interactive solar energy systems enjoy net metering – an amazing economic benefit of going solar – which allows excess generation from solar power systems back onto the electric grid in exchange for credits on your utility bill. When your system overproduces during midday when electricity usage typically drops off dramatically, your meter may rotate backward, crediting your account with surplus energy produced by your system.

Solar panels are comprised of silicon cells sandwiched between two slices of semi-conducting material found in microchips. When light strikes these cells, its photovoltaic effect frees electrons from atoms and initiates an electric current; solar panels then convert this DC electricity to AC electricity that is used in homes and businesses.

Alternating current is run through an inverter which converts it back into AC electricity for distribution to your home through service wires in much the same way as traditional grid electricity; with only the difference that it’s now powered by your solar panels instead of being provided directly by an electric utility company.

Most individuals will only experience an excess of electricity during the warm and sunny summer months, making the time spent outside more pleasant than ever. By saving these credits over time, they can help lower utility bills during winter. How much you carry forward depends on your utility company’s true-up policy which you can learn about by reaching out directly.

Meters are essential components of any electricity generation system, whether solar-generated or not. But if you want to save money and decrease your carbon footprint, installing solar panel systems on your property is imperative – depending on where and how often they’re used, free or low-cost panels could even be available!