How is sunlight converted into electricity?

Sunlight powers life on Earth. But we can also harness the sun’s energy to generate electricity. Solar panels convert sunlight directly into electrical current using the photovoltaic effect. Here’s an overview of how this renewable energy technology works.
Capturing Photons

Solar panels are comprised of photovoltaic cells which are the key to solar power. Made of semiconducting materials like silicon, they contain positively and negatively charged layers. When sunlight photons strike the cell, their energy knocks electrons loose in the silicon. As the photons are absorbed, their energy excites these electrons to higher energy levels.

Flow of Electricity

The excited electrons in the negative layer flow to the positive layer, creating an imbalance that generates voltage. The semiconducting material allows electrons to flow in one direction across the cell, producing electric current. As sunlight continues striking the cell, this electricity flows continuously. The photovoltaic effect requires no moving parts to produce this electric power.

Image credit

From Solar Cells to Panels

To transform the electricity generated by individual solar cells into a practical energy source, engineers arrange them into solar panels. These interconnected panels are strategically designed to maximise energy capture. Tracking systems are also often employed to follow the sun’s trajectory, ensuring that the panels receive sunlight at optimal angles throughout the day. If you are looking for solar panel installers Portishead, specialists such as can offer help and advice.

Image credit

In addition to maximising sunlight exposure, solar panels are equipped with essential components such as inverters. These devices play a crucial role in the energy conversion process by transforming the direct current (DC) produced by the solar cells into alternating current (AC). This AC is the type of electricity commonly used in homes and businesses, making it a vital step in integrating solar power into our daily lives.