How Solar Works (Part 1 of 2)

One of the least understood aspects of photovoltaic solar is how it works.

Solar panels work great in San Diego due to the amazing sun exposure.

There are many benefits to going solar in San Diego such as lowering your electric bill, getting rid of it completely but many people are confused as to how the panels turn the sun into electricity.

The picture below shows how a grid connected solar system works.

Panels aka Modules: A panel is a group of a number of cells installed in a weatherproof case. Typically cells are 60-72 cells.

Cells: Under the sun, a photovoltaic cell acts as a photosensitive diode that instantaneously converts light into electricity.

The layers of the Cell

A top, phosphorus-diffused silicon layer carries free electrons – unanchored particles with negative charges. A thicker, boron doped bottom layer contains holes, or absences of electrons, that also can move freely. In effect, precise manufacturing has instilled an electronic imbalance between the two layers.

How the Solar Power is made:

  1. Photons bombard and penetrate the cell.
  2. They activate electrons, knocking them loose in both silicon layers.
  3. Some electrons in the bottom layer sling-shot to the top of the cell.
  4. These electrons flow into metal contacts as electricity, moving into a circuit throughout a 60-cell module.
  5. Electrons flow back into the cell via a solid contact layer at the bottom, creating a closed loop or circuit.

How SDG&E becomes part of the equation:  Stay tuned for part 2 to find out how you can use your utility to help you power your home 24 hours a day by using solar power.

How Solar Works Infographic

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