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Solar Panel Energy Transformation

By Benjamin Strusnik January 15, 2022

Solar Panel Energy Transformation

With all of the science behind it, it’s easy to get lost in trying to understand solar panel energy transformation.

This article ensures that you get a full understanding of how a solar panel works and how it converts solar energy into electrical energy.

What Energy Conversion is Occurring in a Solar Panel?

Solar panels and the use of solar energy are becoming more mainstream in terms of a reliable source of energy. The more people make use of solar panels and solar energy, the greener and safer our environment becomes. 

These are just some of the solar panel environmental benefits.

Since traditional electricity is produced through burning fossil fuels, this emits harmful gasses into the air that causes pollution and damages the environment.

what energy conversion occurs when a solar panel uses light to provide power to a house

The sun is a natural resource that provides the safest and cleanest way of converting solar energy into electrical energy. This energy can be used to power up a solar generator for camping trips or to keep the lights on at home.

It emits energy in the form of waves and these waves move towards the earth and hit the surface of the solar cells in a solar panel.

However, there’s much more to the methods and science as to how a solar panel work.

What Are Solar Panels and How Do They Work?

Before we look at the science behind energy conversion, we need to understand what solar panels can be used for and what they do.

A solar array is a collection of solar panels. Within those panels are individual cells called Solar cells. The most common solar cells are made from silicon, which is a good semiconductor and is made up of individual layers. 

Construction

what energy conversion is occurring in a solar panel

The silicon makes up two of the layers in a solar cell, with metal and glass making up the remaining layers.

The top layer is made from glass and is the first layer that the sun’s rays of light encounter. Since glass is an insulator and is transparent, most of the light will pass through. 

The reason for the glass at the top is to protect the other conducting layers from environmental damage.

The layer below the glass is an antireflection coating that traps the light coming from the sun and doesn’t let it back out. This layer is above the silicon layers.

Since the silicon semiconductors are reflective, any light that shines onto it simply reflects away. 

So, since the antireflection coating is above the silicon semiconductors and traps most of the energy coming from the sun, you won’t need to worry about light being reflected away. This answers the question of how solar panels store energy.

What we need to do is bond the silicon with phosphorus, giving an extra electron for usage. This makes up one of the silicon layers.

The second silicon layer located beneath this phosphorus bonded layer is a layer containing boron instead of phosphorus. Individually, these silicon layers are neutral meaning there’s no net charge on them.

However, this all changes when the phosphorus bonded silicon touches the boron phosphorus bonded silicon layer.

Found above and below the silicon layers are a metal grid and plate. The former is the front conductor, and the latter is the back conductor.

The reason for the front conductor being a grid is to leave some space. If there isn’t enough space then the light won’t be able to get through to the silicon below, but if there’s too much space then the electrons have far along with the silicon. A grid is a perfect balance between the two.

Transformation

So yes, the silicon layers separate charge and give us a voltage, but this voltage is only around half a volt. 

What we need is many cells in a single panel and many panels in a single array. Once we have our solar array, we can make use of the sun providing 1000w of power to every square meter on earth.

We can look at solar cells as a leaf. Solar cells gather light from the sun and generate electricity for humans to use, the same way a leaf generates food for a plant.

Now that we know the science behind solar panels and how solar energy is converted to electrical energy, let’s look at some pros and cons of solar panels.

Pros

  • Clean and green energy
  • Built to last up to 30 years
  • Low maintenance cost
  • Reduces electricity bill

Cons

  • Solar cells only provide DC, so we need to convert it to AC with an inverter
  • Sunlight varies from moment to moment or place to place

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