The sun is one of our solar system’s most abundant energy sources. It generates enough energy to keep life on Earth going. Solar panels are one method of harnessing the sun’s power and converting it into electricity for your home.
Solar panels are an excellent way for people who live in a home with a sunny roof to generate their own power––but what makes them so efficient? And why is it critical that we all transition away from the use of fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas?
How are solar panels manufactured? And how do they function? We will look at the manufacturing process of solar panels and how they work to generate energy from sunlight in this guide. We’ll also talk about other renewable energy sources and ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
What is solar energy?
Solar energy is the radiant light and heat from the sun that humans have used to generate electricity. Solar panels are one method of accomplishing this. A solar panel, also known as a photovoltaic cell (PV), converts sunlight into usable electricity for your home or business through an electrical circuit.
There are various types of solar panels, with monocrystalline solar panels being one of the most common.
Monocrystalline cells are made from a single piece of silicon crystal sliced into 0.01-inch-thick wafers. Polycrystalline solar cells are made up of multiple silicon crystals that have been fused together; they are less efficient than monocrystalline solar cells but less expensive to produce.
Thin film technology can also be used to make solar panels, which use a semiconductor material composed of copper indium gallium selenide and silicon alloys. Because they do not require high-purity silicon, solar cells made with this process have a lower manufacturing cost than other types of PV cells.
What are solar panels made of?
Because of its high conversion rate and abundance on Earth, silicon is the most commonly used material in photovoltaic cells.
Solar cells must be able to convert at least 12-15 percent of the energy they receive from the sun into electricity, and pure silicon is an ideal material for this.
Silicon solar cells are about 0.001 inches thick and are mounted on glass or metal sheets to protect them from the elements. The glass sheet serves as a weather barrier and structural support while allowing light to pass through it into the PV cell beneath.
On the back of monocrystalline solar cells, a thin layer of conductive aluminum oxide is applied. On the back of polycrystalline PV cells, a thin layer of transparent conducting film is applied.
How do solar cells work?
The PVs in a cell are connected to form an electrical circuit to generate electricity from sunlight.
When sunlight is absorbed by solar cells, electrons are ejected from their atoms and are free to flow as electricity. This process also causes a buildup of negative charges on the front side of the cell where it is sunny, requiring positive charges to travel through wires to produce an electric current.
To connect solar panels in series or parallel, inverters are required. These convert the direct current (DC) power generated by the PV cells into alternating current (AC) that can be used on your property. They ensure that all of the energy generated can pass through.
The efficiency of solar panels varies according to their size, type, and the amount of sunlight they receive. In general, the larger a solar panel is and the higher its efficiency rating, the more expensive it is to manufacture–– however, there are benefits to using large panels that outweigh these costs in some cases.
Some companies have developed devices that can measure the amount of electricity produced by your rooftop PV system or solar array on an hourly basis, allowing you to track its performance.
These devices also assist you in determining the best times to use your renewable energy, so they’re worth considering if you want to get the most out of your solar panels while minimizing their overall environmental impact.
How Solar Panels Work
Solar panels use the power of sunlight to produce electricity.
They work by absorbing photons, or packets of light energy, and converting them into electrons which flow as an electric current. The greater number of solar cells in a panel and their surface area, the more electrical output they’ll have.
Solar cells are connected together inside each panel to form what is called a photovoltaic array. Once the electrical output has been generated, it’s then converted into usable AC power by using an inverter that changes DC current into AC so you can use the electricity in your home or office.
Why are solar panels so expensive?
The manufacturing cost for PV modules has fallen by 80% in the past decade, but they’re still more than double what you would pay for traditional electricity from the grid. There are several reasons for this:
- The efficiency of the cells (how much sunlight is converted into usable energy) has increased while manufacturing costs have decreased, making each cell more expensive to produce and assemble
- Manufacturing processes require multiple steps, which add up in cost
- It takes a lot of time and resources to create solar panels that withstand extreme weather, such as hail or high winds
- Solar panels last for 30 years, and they don’t need to be replaced very often, which means that manufacturers have a hard time recouping their initial costs
Why switch over to solar?
Investing in solar panels is an excellent way to reduce your carbon footprint and leave a smaller environmental impact.
They operate silently, with no moving parts or noise pollution, and they do not require any type of fuel to function correctly. They only need sunlight to provide energy.
Because solar panels emit no carbon dioxide or other harmful gases, they can help you save money on your electricity bills in the long run. Furthermore, the cost of switching to renewable energy is decreasing year after year, making it easier than ever for homeowners to invest in their future with this technology.
The benefits of going solar:
- Solar panels are silent, which means they don’t disturb wildlife or your neighbors. They also generate minimal noise pollution since there aren’t any moving parts involved in the process.
- Solar energy is renewable, sustainable, and clean, so you won’t have to worry about emissions or fossil fuels polluting our planet.
- Since solar panel installation isn’t very expensive, you can pay for them by cash or through a loan if you’re looking to finance the process.
- Solar panels last a long time and don’t require much maintenance as traditional power sources such as gas or coal. You’ll also save money on your electric bill since solar energy is more affordable than other types of electricity.
- Using solar panels is a more cost-effective option than building new power plants or expanding the grid to accommodate renewable energy sources such as wind and hydroelectric.
Other alternative energy sources to consider
- Wind turbines: generate electricity from kinetic energy harnessed by their massive blades, which rotate in the wind. Utilities use these to produce clean, renewable energy that doesn’t rely on fossil fuels for its production or use.
- Hydroelectric power plants: use water pressure to drive massive turbines which create electricity from flowing rivers and oceans. Water isn’t wasted because it’s already used as a natural resource rather than pulling it directly from a drinking supply.
- Geothermal power plants: harness heat from deep inside the Earth’s crust to generate electricity. These are much more difficult and expensive to build than wind turbines or solar panels, but they last much longer because there aren’t any moving parts involved.
- Biomass energy: comes from organic materials such as wood, food waste, methane gas created by livestock, and methane gas created by decomposing plant matter.
How can I reduce my carbon footprint?
There’s no “one size fits all” solution to reducing your environmental impact, but there are several things you can do to live a more sustainable lifestyle:
- Take shorter showers or use water sparingly when brushing your teeth or washing your dishes.
- Buy a high-efficiency washing machine and dishwasher to reduce the amount of water you use when doing laundry or cleaning at home.
- Use energy-efficient appliances that don’t consume as much electricity, such as Energy Star products which have been independently tested for their efficacy in reducing power usage. You can also install programmable thermostats in your home, which will automatically lower the temperature when you’re away and raise it before you get home to save money on cooling and heating.
- Replace light bulbs with LEDs or CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) since they last longer and use less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs. You can also consider installing a smart system that lets you control all of your lights from a single app on your smartphone.
- Use filtered, reusable water bottles instead of plastic ones, which aren’t as readily recyclable.
- Plant trees and make sure they’re watered regularly to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in your air.
These are just a few ways to help protect the environment by reducing pollution and emissions. Every little change counts, so don’t feel overwhelmed if you aren’t able to do everything at once.
Aspiration helps you offset your carbon footprint with every purchase
Here at Aspiration, we strive to have as little environmental impact as possible.
Some of the ways we do this are by reducing pollution, increasing recycling efforts, and creating products/services that support a better life for people in need.
We also want our customers to have the opportunity to offset their carbon footprint with every purchase through the use of an easy-to-use credit card called “Aspiration Zero.”
If you’re interested in learning more about how your purchases can help save our planet and get you closer to being carbon neutral, check out what makes the Aspiration Zero different from other credit cards today!
Shining a Light on Eco-Friendly Solar Paint
5 Advantages of Solar Energy (and 3 Disadvantages)
Everything You Need to Know About the Solar Electric Power Association (Smart Electric Power Alliance)