How do solar panels work?

Nowadays, a large number of people are opting for the alternative sources of energy, such as solar energy. Solar energy can be used effectively for operating various electrical and mechanical devices by using solar panels. Solar panels are used for emergency traffic lights, powering heaters and solar cookers and have many other uses as well. So how does a solar panel work? The working mechanism of the solar panels is quite simple. The solar panels trap the energy and heat of the sun and convert it into energy for devices.

Since solar energy doesn’t produce green house gases or doesn’t have any emissions, solar energy is considered to be extremely environmental friendly and clean means of producing viable energy. On a sunny day, when the sky is absolutely clear, the earth absorbs 1000 watts of solar energy per square meter.
This is enough to power homes and offices across the world for free.

What Is A Solar Panel?

Solar panels trap the heat and light from the sun during the day. The energy is also stored in the solar panels. These panels are not only used for harvesting sunlight but are also used for converting the light energy of sun into electricity. Photovoltaic cells or solar cells are arranged on the solar panel’s surface in a pattern similar to grid. The photovoltaic cells were used as far back as 1958 to power the solar panels of the satellites that were launched into space for space exploration.

These cells are made of material known as semiconductors that are made of silicon. The energy that is absorbed loosens the electrons in solar panels and permits them to move freely. When metal contacts are attached to the solar panels, then this flow of electrons creates electricity. Unfortunately, the efficiency of the solar panels is extremely low. The solar panels are only able to absorb 40% of the sunlight that falls on them (the most efficient of all solar panels) though the usual efficiency of the solar panels is in the range of 20-30%.

The loss is due to many factors

The sunlight that hits the solar panels is actually composed of many wavelengths. Some of the wavelengths don’t possess enough energy to knock the electrons in the solar panels and simply pass through the solar panels.
In other cases, many of the wavelengths have too much energy, and then the extra energy is lost. These two reasons can alone account for 70% of the lost energy.

Since the electrons flow from one side of the panel to another, there is transmission loss as well. The transmission loss can be minimized by covering the bottom of the panel allowing for better conductivity of electricity. However, if the solar panels are covered entirely, they won’t be able to “see” the sun. This is the reason that the solar panels are sometimes covered with opaque material to cut the transmission losses.

These cells are arranged on the surface of the panel to trap the light of the sun in the daytime and convert it directly into electric power, which can be used for several purposes. Many such solar panels are currently in use for traffic light intersections.

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