Do you know what kind of learner you are? Do you learn best when you can listen, or do you need to be moving when you learn? Do you want to just read the information, or do you like pictures?
When you’re trying to learn how something works, no matter what type of learner you are, a diagram always helps!
Learning about solar can be particularly confusing without one. Let’s look at a solar energy diagram or two and see if adding some visual learning to your research helps make sense of solar energy for you.
How Does Solar Energy Work?
Sunlight carries energy in the forms of heat, radiation, and light. Solar cells use the light energy to create an electrical current. The technical term used for the chemical reaction created from converting the energy from sunlight into electricity is the photovoltaic (PV) process.
Solar Energy Diagram 1
First, let’s look at the basic components of a solar cell (one piece of a solar panel).
The outside has an anti-reflective coating on the front that protects the components inside the cell, while still letting through as much light as possible. Solar panel manufacturers use strengthened laminate glass for this coating.
Inside of the solar cell is a silicon material that acts as a semiconductor, which is a material that sometimes conducts electricity well and sometimes doesn’t. The changing conductivity of this semiconductive material generates a flow of electricity when photons come in contact with it.
Solar Energy Diagram 2
So next, let’s take a closer look at how the semiconducting silicon actually creates an electrical current.
There are two layers of silicon, one with a positive charge (P-type) layered under a layer with a negative charge (N-type). When photons from the light energy hit the n-type layer, electrons are released that create an electrical current as they move to the p-type layer in an attempt to balance the charge between them.
This flow of electricity creates a direct current (DC power). This flow stops if there is no light hitting the panel, a barrier is created between the n- and p-types.
Converting DC Solar Power to AC
When a solar panel company installs a system they will install an inverter with it and have the electric company come out and install a new meter. The inverter takes the generated DC power and converts it into standard AC power.
The new meter is a more advanced meter that will send your generated power to the grid when it is more than you’re using and direct power back from the grid when there is too little being generated. Think of how much power is generated summer vs winter or day vs night.
Now You Know the Basics
It is a big step to invest in a solar panel system, but using these diagrams to help you understand how solar panels work can help you make that decision. Congratulations on learning something new today from solar energy diagrams!
Check out other posts here on our page for more ideas on how to invest in your home!