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How does Solar PV Work?

Solar PV relies on solar cells (constructed together to form a panel) made out of a form of silicon mixed (or 'doped') with various chemicals. These chemicals give the cells a specific property which causes them to react to the sun’s light by producing a Direct Current (DC). This current is then transferred into an Alternating Current (AC) by an inverter and used in the home, or exported into the National Grid.

How does Solar PV generate electricity?

Different types of solar PV cells are made from slightly different materials and perform slightly differently, however, they all generate electricity through the same process.

A solar PV cell is formed of atoms with charged electrons orbiting a central nucleus. To generate a current, these electrons need to be broken free from their orbits. In basic terms, when the sun’s light is absorbed by a solar cell, it increases the energy of the electrons causing them to break away from their atoms. These electrons ‘flow’ into a conductor in the solar cell and form a Direct Current (DC).

How do solar cells work?

How does solar PV Work?
By slightly altering the structure the atoms form in the material (through 'doping'), scientists can make a structure in which electrons are more likely to be broken free from their orbits. This is known as an n-type (negative) semiconductor. By putting this next to a p-type (positive) semiconductor, in which an electron is missing, a neutral region is formed through which the free electrons will flow when released. What this means in effect is that, when a photon of light is absorbed by the cell, the electrons that are released flow through this neutral region and into a metal conductor at the top of the cell. From this conductor they then flow down into an inverter which transfers the current into AC and then into your home to be used in appliances.

Effects on Performance

Different types of solar cell offer different levels of performance. In addition, many different environmental factors can affect the performance of your solar cells. For more information on the various factors that affect solar PV performance, see our separate performance section.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you are interested in solar PV for your home and would like more information on how solar PV panels work or would like to arrange a free quote from an accredited installer. Simply fill in our quote form or contact us on 0116 2987467.
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