Sunlight energy produced by the sun is the most abundant and readily available energy source on earth. In order to utilize this energy, we need to use a complete system of components such as PV panels and inverters to convert solar energy to useable electricity.
This process of converting solar energy into electrical energy is carried out through a few steps, which are discussed below in detail.
- Sunlight activates solar panel
- Electricity is produced by PV Cells
- Electricity is converted from direct current to alternating current (DC to AC)
- Converted AC electricity is usable for buildings at Residential and/or Commercial applications
- Net metering mechanism feeds excess energy generated back into the grid for hours where the panels are not generating electricity.
Sunlight Activates Solar Panel:
To utilize solar energy from the Sun and convert it into useable electricity, a solar panel must be used. A solar panel is a device designed to absorb sun rays to generate direct current (DC) electricity.
Solar panels are made up of a large collection of silicon-based photovoltaic cells that are electrically connected to one another. These cells are then mounted into a support frame with a glass casing surrounded by a special film.
In order to generate more electricity and yield maximum output, solar cells can be linked together in a solar module, and many modules can be joined together in a solar array, also called a string.
Production of Electricity by PV Cells:
Solar cells are made up of a type of material known as a semiconductor. Mostly, they are made of silicon.
A typical simple solar cell has two layers of semiconductors. One is known as n-type (Negative) and the other is p-type (Positive).
The process of electricity production starts when the semiconductor atoms (Silicon) absorb some light. This light’s energy knocks some electrons out of the atoms. The electrons flow between the two layers and this flow of electrons makes an electric current. The electric current produced can leave the cell through the metal contacts and be used.
Electric Power Conversion (DC to AC):
As the electricity generated by the solar cells is a Direct Current (DC Power) and can’t be used directly in our houses, as most of our house equipment’s are Alternating Current (AC Power) operated. A Solar Inverter is used to convert the DC power generated by the solar panels into usable AC power.
In modern solar energy systems, these inverters can be configured as one inverter for the entire system, called string inverter, or as microinverters, which are individually attached behind each panel.
Converted AC Electricity Usage at Residential/Commercial Level:
Once the DC power produced by solar panels is converted with the help of the inverter, the AC power produced can be easily used to power electrical equipment and appliances. The electricity generated is the same as the electric power generated through the grid by the utility power company and no changes are required to your existing electrical wiring system at the house.
Net Metering Mechanism:
Power from the grid (utility company) costs money. If some of a home’s power is generated from solar panels, the home can use less grid power. For this purpose, a net metering mechanism is used.
A smart energy meter is used that has the functionality of measuring the electricity flow in both directions (to and from your home). Some utility companies supply the net metering device for no cost.