How Does a Solar Panel Work?


Quick Answer

According to NASA, solar panels create electricity due to silicon's propensity for releasing electrons when struck by the sun's rays. By harnessing this flow and directing it, a solar panel creates an electric current as long as the sun's energy is striking its surface.

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How Does a Solar Panel Work?
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Full Answer

All electricity results from the flow of electrons through a material. Silicon releases electrons whenever it becomes excited, and when the sun's energy strikes a silicon surface, it creates an electrical discharge. Solar panels are treated in a way to direct that flow, changing it from a random electric flare into a steady current. If enough solar cells are connected together, the resulting electric current may be enough to power appliances or light fixtures.

Since a solar panel stops generating electricity once sunlight stops hitting its surface, many solar systems include tracking motors to follow the sun across the sky to maximize solar output. In addition, many home systems feature battery storage to collect power for use at night. Another common feature of home solar systems is a two-way link to the electrical grid. This allows the household to draw on the public utility for power whenever the sun is down or more electricity is needed, while allowing the solar panels to feed electricity back out whenever generation exceeds demand.

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