In Blog, Solar for Beginners, Solar Panels

solar panelsSolar Power

It’s a common question I get from the inquisitive: “How do solar panels work?” It’s a hard question to answer in limited time, but I’ll do my best here.

Typically a 250w solar panel is made up of 60 cells, each cell measures about 150mm. The working of these individual cells is the basic explanation of how a solar panel works.

The PV cells consist of Silicon, which is a semiconductor. Silicon itself does not create electricity, so a bunch of Chemists and Physicists came up with an ingenious idea. They cut the silicon into two thin layers and “doped” the silicone with impurities. They added the element Phosphorous one layer and Boron into the other. When doped with Phosphorous, the resulting silicon is called N-type (“n” for negative) because of the abundance of free electrons. The other piece of Silicon, doped with the Boron, becomes a P-type Silicon (“p” for positive). Instead of having free electrons, the P-type has free openings and carries the opposite (positive) charge.

Because Boron requires electrons, and Phosphorus can emit electrons, the two create a tension, or an electrical field. This electrical field is measured in voltage. When light (in the form of photons) hit the solar cell, the electrons start to move. If we then provide an external current path,electrons will flow from the P side to the N side, charging inverters, illuminating lights and powering appliances for us alo­ng the way.

This electron flow provides the current, and the cell’s electric field causes the voltage. With both current and voltage, we have power, which is the product of the two.

Creating a solar cell then becomes a fairly simple science! The production of these cells into panels in mass quantities becomes the challenge. Some companies have succeeded in the challenge – but more have failed. But that is for another blog.


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3 Comments on How do Solar Panels Work?

Mark C said :administrator Report 5 years ago

Sounds like a great idea Chris!!

    Mark C said :administrator Report 5 years ago

    Write Your Comment Here.

      Chris said :Guest Report 5 years ago

      Silly question, I know... but why has no one come up with N and P type silicon paint, for converting your existing roof tiles to solar panels? Nip up the ladder onto the roof and lay out some squares of tin foil with electrical contacts on the edges, then paint your first layer of N type silicon. Come back the next day and slap on some P type paint. Day 3 stick another tin foil electrode on the top, along with some sealing epoxy paint, then connect it all up and job's a good'un! Well, it would be nice if it worked, but I realise this is just a pipe-dream! Thanks for a great blog though! I've been reading lots of pages today, beginning my education on solar so I know what to buy when I get around to it in a few months time.

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