A solar panel converts sunlight into electricity through a phenomenon known as the photovoltaic effect. The solar panel comprises numerous individual solar cells, which are made up of semiconductors, typically silicon.
Here's a step-by-step explanation of the process:
- Absorption: When sunlight hits the solar panel, it consists of energy particles called photons. These photons are absorbed by the solar cells.
- Electron Excitation: The absorbed photons transfer their energy to the electrons present in the semiconductor material of the solar cell. This energy causes the electrons to become excited and break free from their atoms, leaving behind positively charged "holes."
- Electric Field: The solar cell's semiconductor material is specifically designed to create an electric field within it. This electric field separates the excited electrons from the positively charged holes, driving the electrons towards the bottom of the cell and the holes towards the top.
- Electrical Current: The separated electrons and holes create an imbalance of charges, generating a flow of electrons, i.e., an electric current. This flow occurs in the form of direct current (DC).
- Electrical Output: The solar cells are interconnected, and their electric current is combined to provide the desired voltage and current levels. This output can be utilized for various applications or stored in batteries for later use.
- Inverter: Since most household appliances and the power grid operate on alternating current (AC), the DC electrical output from the solar panel is converted into AC using an inverter. The inverter changes the current's direction and adjusts it to match the required voltage and frequency.
It's worth noting that solar panels are most efficient when they receive direct sunlight, at perpendicular angles, and without any obstructions or shading.