In just a few short years, they have gone from a futuristic artifact to a part of our everyday lives. We explain how solar panels work, one of the keys to Earth’s renewable future. Solar panels have gradually been integrated into urban landscapes. If you look at the roofs of new buildings you will find them as they are mandatory in most cases. You can also see them on the roof of the unwelcome “parking meters” or in the nasty speed cameras.
But how do they work?
The sun’s energy is compressed like this
A lot has been summarized and simplified, and the process is as follows:
The sun’s rays hit plates made of semiconductor material, which convert the energy received into electricity. The people responsible for this transition are called solar cells. They form solar panels, which are small cells made of crystalline silicon or gallium arsenide.
How solar cells work
Solar cells are mixed with other components such as phosphorus and boron to form two parts: one with negative electrons and the other with positrons. When a solar cell is exposed to sunlight, photons manage to move electrons from the part with too much negative charge to the part where it’s missing. This electronic movement is a lightweight fee for green and renewable energy Tempo Verde.
As photvolaic panel release electrons, more and more electricity is generated. Unused electrons, or electrons from the wind, go back to the negative plate, making everything start over in an endless process. In this way, direct current is generated, which is stored in the battery until it is converted to alternating current (arriving in your home) by a voltage inverter.
What are voltage inverters?
To know what the function of these devices is, it is necessary to know that direct current, as its name indicates, has a regular flow and runs in one direction. In contrast, alternating current has a constantly changing power and direction with various intervals of troughs and peaks. Voltage inverters smoothly and steadily change the direction of direct current and convert it to alternating current. So that? To be useful to you, most appliances need alternating current to work. In addition, our refrigerators, dishwashers, mini chains… require a specific and well-regulated voltage. With alternating current, it is much easier to modify its flow and voltage.
Types of solar panels
Monocrystalline: they are composed of monocrystalline cells. They are very recognizable by their intense black color and cut corners. They are 15-25% more efficient than the rest of the models. In addition, their useful life is longer, since they can last up to 25 years.
Polycrystalline: they are made up of polycrystalline cells. These have a dark bluish color. They are cheaper but also less efficient, although it has now been possible to reduce their reflection losses and improve their light capture.
Thin layer: this model is different from the previous ones. It is not the union of several individual cells but a sheet cut to size. Its manufacture is simpler, which explains its low price. They are very flexible and can adapt to all types of surfaces, which is why they are increasingly used in homes.
How to use Solar Energy?
The way solar energy is generated for its use is simple, aiming to achieve a balance between energy production and consumption. The solar panels on the roof capture sunlight, transforming it into photovoltaic solar energy, which passes through the inverter, in order to prepare it for consumption in a residence, for example. It is possible to use solar energy through photovoltaic energy, solar thermal energy, or also through thermosolar energy, each with different purposes and operations, both for generating electricity and for heating liquids.
Solar energy can be used in homes, establishments, and industries through microgeneration, mini generation, and generation in photovoltaic solar plants. Economy and sustainability are the main advantages of using photovoltaic, thermal, and heliothermic systems. The ways of using solar energy are diverse, from use in rural areas for irrigation, in the lighting of public places, in homes for electricity generation, even in industries for moving turbines or heating liquids.
How to use solar energy safely?
The main way to use solar energy with total safety is by following ANEEL standards and performing regular maintenance on energy harvesting equipment. This knowledge of how to safely use solar energy on your property is important for both residential and commercial locations.
After installing solar energy, how does its maintenance work?
To ensure the proper functioning of the solar panels, we recommend washing the panels every 6 months. In places with a lot of dust and/or low rainfall, the ideal is that the process is done every 4 months. Visual inspections performed by technicians can identify scratches, cracks, or blemishes, ensuring performance and finding potential damage to solar panels early on.
See in detail how thermosolar energy works:
- Solar panels (with mirrors, collectors, and heliostats) follow the direction of the sun, reflecting its light and concentrating it on a certain point;
- At this point, a receiver is positioned where a thermal fluid will pass;
- After this step, the accumulated heat will be used to heat the fluid;
- Then the water will heat up to its gaseous state;
- Finally, the heliothermal plant will work as a thermoelectric plant, in which the steam will drive the turbines, turning on the generator that will produce clean energy.