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How Do Solar Panels Work? A Basic Overview

By Kristy Hoare on in How it works

How Do Solar Panels Work? A Basic Overview

Watch the video below to find out how solar panels work or read the article below.  

Solar panels consist of individual silicon cells that are linked together and housed in an aluminium frame with anti-reflective glass. Cells within panels are mostly derived from silicon crystals, which come from sand, the second most abundant element on earth.  Each solar cell has multiple wafer-thin layers, with semiconductive material added to each layer. The top layer has a negative charge, whilst the bottom layer has a positive charge.

Solar panels function by absorbing sunlight and transforming it into electricity. When sunlight reaches solar panels, the light excites electrons found in solar cells, which creates a flow and the creation of an electrical current.

The only moving part in solar cells are electrons; nothing gets worn out, used up or spent - solar panels last for decades.

DC electricity is created by solar panels, but since electrical appliances use AC electricity, an inverter will change the DC electricity to AC.

Solar panels are very easy to maintain.  If solar panels are tilted to at least 10 degrees, they’ll self-clean when it’s raining.  However, they may need a scrub once a year or so to ensure optimal performance.

A 300W solar panel is the most common solar panel size installed on New Zealand homes.  Most New Zealand homes will have at least 10 panels installed, which adds up to be a 3kW system.

To learn how solar panels work in a grid-connected solar power system, click here.

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