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How do solar panels work?

We see solar panels all the time. It’s no secret that we use them due to the environmental advantage they give us, but how exactly do they really work?

The earth intercepts a lot of solar power from the sun, which has a LOT of power. The basic idea of solar panels is that solar energy gets converted to electrical energy. Every solar panel contains smaller solar cells that are made of the element silicon. Each solar cell is sandwiched between conductive layers and is connected to other cells using 4 very strong bonds. Due to these bonds, the electrons with the cell stay in place meaning no current will flow and therefore now electricity is produced.

Light coming from the sun is really just a bunch of small particles coming our way called photons that contain a certain amount of energy. If a photon striking the silicon cell has enough energy, it can knock an electron from its bond, leaving a positively charged hole and allowing the electron to move freely forming a current. The electrons that are shot travel around the panel like they would in a circuit. You can think of it as how current flows in order to light up a bulb in the cell, thereby producing electricity.

To conclude, when the sun shines onto a solar panel, energy from the sunlight is absorbed by the PV cells in the panel. This energy creates electrical charges that move in response to an internal electrical field in the cell, causing electricity to flow.

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