How Solar Works

Photovoltaic Solar Energy

So How Does Solar Work?

1. All light contains energy. When light hits a surface, it usually turns into heat (think sitting out in the sun!). But when light hits certain surfaces, it turns in to electrical energy. Solar works by using photovoltaic solar panels to collect photons from the suns rays. These photons push electrons through the silicon wafer cells. The transfer of photons pushing electrons creates an electrical current. 

2. Since solar panels create DC (Direct Current) electricity and our home appliances use AC (Alternating Current) electricity, an inverter must be used to change the DC to AC. DC electricity is a one way street flowing around a circuit. Think of a battery powering a fan. Electrons start at the negative side of the battery and flow to the fan, then return to the positive side of the battery. With AC electricity electrons are pushed and pulled in both directions, rapidly reversing direction. A little piece of history for you here: AC electricity was chosen for the US’s power grid mostly because it was the cheapest method to transmit over long distances.

3. This newly made AC electricity is sent to your home’s main breaker panel. From the breaker panel, theenergy is first used in your home and any extra is flows out to the electrical grid. Your utility meter will record this outflow of energy and record a credit to be used later when the sun goes down.

4. Your solar produced electricity is used in your home.

5. A net energy meter is used by your utility provider to record both how much energy you consume and how much energy you backfeed to the grid.  At the end of the month, you are billed for the net amount of energy you have used. (your consumption minus the amount you backfed to the grid). During sunny summer months you may actually produce more than you use. In that case, the excess energy in kilowatt-hours will be credited to your next month’s bill. 

6. The clean energy you haven’t used is sent out to the grid for all to enjoy!