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How Do Solar Panels Work?

From the sun to your home, here’s how solar panels work to create the electricity you use everyday. 
According to U.S. Information Energy Administration, renewable energy accounted for 12% of total U.S. energy consumption in 2020, and that number is growing. The U.S. is on the cusp of an energy revolution, and it’s important that every American understands how we will generate our power for years to come. 
What Is Solar Energy?

Solar radiation, often referred to as sunlight or solar energy is what powers solar panels. The amount of solar radiation that reaches any given point of Earth is affected by many factors, which can effect the amount of power created by its capture. 

What Are Solar Panels Made Of?

A common misconception about solar panels is that they are made from rare raw materials. In reality solar panels are made from a grid of silicon (the second most abundant resource on the planet), glass, and wiring. 

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Solar panels work via the Photovoltaic effect, in which photons released from the sun knock loose electrons from their atoms in solar cells. These loose electrons then flow through positive and negative conductors attached to the solar cells, creating an electrical current. 

Breakdown of a solar panel's components
Enphase IQ 8 Inverter
What Does A Solar Inverter Do?

The electricity generated from solar panels comes in the form of Direct Current (DC) as opposed  to the form of electricity our homes use which is Alternating Current (AC). This is why a solar system will come with a solar inverter! Solar inverters convert the DC power generated by solar panels to usable AC power.

Solar inverters are incredibly efficient, for example the Enphase IQ 8 has an efficiency rating of 97% in converting DC to AC power and the SolarEdge Single Phase Energy Hub Inverter boasts a high efficiency rating as well! 

What’s The Difference Between String Inverters And MicroInverters?

Central inverters (commonly called string inverters) work by linking together several solar panels. Conversely microinverters are paired individually to a single panel.

Microinverters, while being more expensive, are generally seen as the superior inverter as they are easier to upgrade, more efficient, and often have better warranties. If a singular microinverter fails the rest of the system can still function whereas if a string inverter fails it can prevent the entire system from functioning. 

Wondering what’s next? Check our net metering page to see how a residential solar system interacts with the grid. 
Reach out to Kasselman Solar now and see how we can get you started on a path to a brighter future! 

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