Do Solar Panels Work and How?

The story of Victoria’s solar feed-in tariffs
September 20, 2018
Video Testimonial – Scott Healy
May 2, 2019

Solar panels are one of the most common forms of renewable technology – they work by converting the sun’s energy into electricity. This is done using some very clever little bits of technology called photovoltaic cells (PV Cells).

The photovoltaic cells are placed between semi-conducting materials, usually silicon but it can also be glass or polymer resin – with different electronic properties to create an electric field.

When sunlight hits the panels, the semi-conducting materials energise. This is known as the photoelectric effect and it’s this that creates the current needed to produce electricity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can’t plug electricity generated from solar panels straight into the mains as it is direct current, so it first needs to be converted to the safer and more stable alternating current. To do this, the electricity is passed through an inverter, which can then be funnelled into the national grid or used locally.

 

 

 

What are the advantages of solar?

There are many benefits to using solar power, here’s why we like it at Good Energy:

  • Guaranteed power when the sun is shining which means that you have a stable form of generation throughout the day.
  • They require little to no maintenance after installation, making them a hassle free form of creating energy.
  • Solar panels don’t create any noise or pollution while working, which makes them perfect for city applications and rural sites alike.
  • Solar panels are very safe; they’re made primarily of silicon so there are no dangers of the cells leaking any sort of chemicals or fumes.

 

What are the challenges of solar?

  • No system is flawless and solar is not an exception; there are a number of challenges to the efficient use of solar, including:
  • Storage of energy – as all solar energy is created during the day it needs to be stored in order to be used at peak times during the evening. Finding a battery storage solution that can store the volume of electricity required is key.
  • Public perception – unfortunately there are many misconceptions surrounding solar power and there’s a huge amount of education required for wider acceptance of this form of renewable energy.
  • They need to be monitored – on a sunny day, solar farms need to be restricted as the amount of generation could exceed demand which would create oversupply on the grid if left alone.

 

Solar on a cloudy day.

 

 

What happens to solar energy on cloudy days?

This is a common question, and you might be surprised by the answer.

Simple Answer – yes, cloudy days do result in reduced generation.

However, because solar panels use the visible spectrum of light to generate electricity, as long as there is enough light to see then it is enough light for the panels to work.

 

Does it need to be hot for solar panels to work?

This is a common misconception as it is the light that generates energy, not the heat. In fact, when it becomes too hot (or too cold) solar panels actually lose some of their efficiency.

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