"Going Solar" 101: Understanding the Basics
Having your very own power source on top of your roof feels like you're living in a fantastic, futuristic world. You're running your appliances and maybe even charging your electric vehicle in your garage without polluting the environment with excess greenhouse gases or polluting our land and water with practices such as hydraulic fracturing.
This information is great enough to simply smile and go on with your day; however, the inquisitive types are asking themselves, "How does this solar thing work?"
Well, here's a brief overview of a rooftop solar electric system...
What are the solar panels doing?
Solar panels are made up of smaller sections known as photovoltaic cells, or solar cells. These cells are made with materials referred to as semiconductors. When sunlight hits these solar cells, some of the light is absorbed and converted into energy within the semiconductor material. This energy then knocks electrons out of their loose chemical bonds within the material.
The semiconductor material is sandwiched between two metal nodes that create an electric field within the solar cell. This electric field causes the electrons to flow in one direction, creating an electric current.
The current of electrons emitted by the solar cell is in the form of a Direct Current (DC). Our appliances, computers and most everyday machines we use that need electricity to function run on Alternating Current (AC). Therefore, we run the current of electricity from our solar panels through something called an inverter that changes the type of current from DC to AC. After this change of electric current type, we can now use the generated electricity in our homes!