How Do Solar Panels Work

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Solar Panel CellSolar panels comprise of a number of solar cells. Typically there are 60 of these cells packaged in a metal framework to form a module or solar panels.

What is a Solar Cell?

A solar cell comprises of two silicon layers. The layer which faces the Sun is negatively doped with phosphorous and the layer below is positively doped with boron. Where the two surfaces are placed together an electrical field is produced and atoms become free to move. They can only move when the cell is exposed to sun light. The movement of atoms from one silicon layer to the other is current flow. This is known as the photovoltaic effect.

How are Solar Panels constructed?

Solar cells can be clearly seen in the picture of a solar panel where each cell appears between the White dots.

Solar panels are constructed from three main types of material:Solar panels construction

  • Monocrystalline silicon
  • Polycrystalline silicon
  • Amorphous silicon
  • Hybrid PV (crystalline and amorphous)

Monocrystalline cells are produced from a slicing wafers of pure silicon from a silicon ingot. They are the slightly more efficient cells than poly and amorphous silicon and are more expensive because of the amount of energy and time required to produce them. They are 13 – 17% energy efficient.

Polycrystalline cells are produced from casting pure silicon. They are around 11 – 15% energy efficient and less expensive to produce than monosilicon.

Amorphous silicon cells are not made of a crystalline silicon but laid as thin film type of silicon on glass. They are around 6-8% energy efficient. This product isn’t really suited to domestic households because of the area panel required to produce the same amount of power as say a polysilicon panel.

Hybrid PV panels combine silicon with amorphous thin film cells. These produce efficiencies in excess of 18%, however, they come with a premium price tag.

Solar panels costs vary by product, size, manufacturer and quality. We will advise the what is the best panel for your circumstance

Solar Array or group of connected Solar Panels

Solar Panels array on the roof

Solar panels produce more power when they are connected together to form an array. This is a much better renewable energy solution and this picture shows an array of eight solar panels that have been connected together.

So how do Solar Panels work at night?

The short answer is that they don’t because they require the daylight from the sun. See the map of the UK for the solar energy distribution across the country.

Do I have to keep Solar Panels clean?

Although the rain will keep the panels clean most of the time it is still a good idea to wash them down with clean water.

See also:

Photovoltaics Explained

Solar Panels of Solar Photovoltaics

Renewable Solar Energy

Heat Pumps

Grants and Incentives

How do Solar Panels work from Green Systems Engineering