How Does Solar Power Work?
Solar panels are the way of the future-providing electricity to your home but also exporting unused energy back into the grid. Solar technologies rely on sunlight to create electric energy, which is much more sustainable approach to producing electricity as opposed to burning fossil fuels.
But, how does solar power work? In particular, how does solar power work when there is no sunlight?
Why Should You Go Solar?
Having solar panels installed not only saves you money in both the short and long term, but it also is less harmful to our planet. Do you know that the amount of sunlight that hits the earth's surface in 1.5 hours is enough to handle the entire world's energy consumption for a full year?
Solar technologies take advantage of that sunlight by converting the sun's energy into electric energy through photovoltaic panels. There are no direct greenhouse gas emissions when converting sunlight into electricity so you can rest assured your carbon footprint is reduced.
Sunlight is also a renewable source of energy, which means it will never run out-unlike coal and gas, which will cease eventually.
How Do Solar Panels Turn Sunlight into Electricity?
Solar power is created by sunlight. Energy from the sunlight is absorbed by the photovoltaic (PV) cells and produces an electrical current that moves due to an internal electrical field in the cell. Solar panels generate direct current (DC) electricity which is then fed into a box called a solar inverter that turns the DC electricity into alternating current (AC) electricity. The AC electricity is directed to your switchboard, enabling you to use your electricity freely. The more panels wired together (known as an array), the more electricity you make.
All solar meters are bi-directional, meaning any unused energy will be exported back to the grid where you receive a credit on your bill, known as a feed-in-tariff.
If you're using solar power, there's no need to turn it off at night or on in the morning. The entire system works automatically. Plus, there's no need to switch your home from using your
solar power, and then onto the grid when the weather isn't quite so sunny. Your system will also do this automatically.
In fact, generally speaking, solar power systems don’t need a lot of maintenance. As a home owner, you won't really even know it's on your roof! A solar power system also boats a long life, so it shouldn't need to be replaced any time soon.
The solar inverter will give you a whole range of data, from much energy you're using to how much power you've generated since the system was installed. You can generally find the inverter in your garage or some other easily accessible spot. Some more sophisticated inverters provide online monitoring as well.
How Does Solar Power Work At Night?
The short answer is that solar power doesn't work at night. Solar panels work to generate electricity by using sunlight. When there is no sunlight present, solar panels are not able to be produce electricity.
However, you can invest in a storage battery that stores excess power generated during the day. Your solar inverter then draws on the battery at night when power is required.