How Does Solar Work?

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Solar energy is light or heat that comes from the sun. Solar power is generated by transforming the light energy from the sun and converting it into usable electrical energy. There are various types of solar power, what you are looking at is called a photovoltaic or a PV system for short.

The name photovoltaic comes from the process in which light energy is converted into electrical energy. In this process light which is a stream of partials called photons hits the solar panel which contains silicon semiconductor. When the photons hit the silicon surface in the solar cell they generate electricity by transferring energy and freeing electrons from one side of the cell to the other.

The power produced in the panel is called direct current or DC electricity. The grid electricity we get from the road and are familiar with is a 230/400v alternating current or AC system. For this reason we cannot directly connect solar panels to the switchboard to power our appliances. We need an inverter to convert the DC power to AC power, letting you use the power of your system to power your home or business appliances.

How Does A Grid-connect Solar System Work?

A grid connected solar system consists of an array of solar panels (array being what we call the group of panels) that produce DC power. These are connected to an inverter, which convert the DC power produced by the panels into the AC power. The inverter is then connected to the switch board, allowing the power to be used. Any excess in production can be exported (sold back) to the grid (the road power), any short fall in production seamlessly gets imported (bought) from the grid. This is all recorded by what we call an Import/Export meter provided by SA Power Networks.

Put simply, PV cells are energy converters. The solar panels converts the light energy to DC power, which is then fed into the inverter to convert it to AC power. The AC power is in turn fed into the switch board as part of your ‘normal’ electricity supply.

The system you will be looking at consists of the solar panels, one or multiple inverters (depending on the size of the system) which are connected to the switchboard and a metering device called an import/export meter which allows your system to be connected to the distribution network.