How Does Solar Electric Work

Solar Electric PV System

Here is a simple description to give you an insight into the operations of a solar electric system or simply a photovoltaic cell. The generation of solar electricity is through photovoltaic (PV) cells. The photovoltaic cells convert solar radiation into electricity using semi conductor which have been designed to produce photovoltaic effects for the conversion.

The materials used to manufacture the semi conductors are different types of silicon for most of the polycrystalline or monocrystalline solar panel constructions. They can also be made from the more exotic blends based on either aluminum cadmium telluride or copper indium gallium cellenid which are commonly referred to as thin-film solar cells. All these materials are used to form individual solar cells, which are then brought together to form a single solar panel and these can exist in modules or shapes like flexible rolls and perhaps like building materials such as siding and shingles. A single solar panel is enough to produce electricity, though many can be connected together to form an array of panels to increase the amount of electricity produced.

The type produced by solar energy is what is referred to as a DC, or direct current. However, most of the electrical appliances and systems use AC or alternating currents. For the solar energy to be used to power such appliances, it must be converted from DC to AC. This is achieved by directing the power produced by the solar panels to an AC Power Converter. From the converter, the power can either be directed to battery power banks for storage or it can be channeled to the mains power panel of the home which is in turn connected to the utility grid.

There are basically two different ways of handling PV power. The people who store the power in the battery banks are usually not connected to the power grid and they rely solely on the solar power for their electricity needs. The battery themselves store electricity in DC form hence it will be important to connect the inverter downstream before the power reaches the various appliances.

Those who are connected to the grid however do not need any storage of their PV power but instead they have it connected to the power main and it will help in reducing the amount of utility supplied power by the actual amount produced by the PV system. There may be instances when the PV production is less than the actual energy requirement of the owner of the system and there are also occasions when the production may be higher than what the owner needs. In the latter case, the system is said to be producing net electricity causing the meter to essentially spin backwards. This movement will be managed and recorded using bi directional meters installed by the utility providers to track the electricity as it moves back and forth.

The owner of such a system will be credited for the surplus electricity they produced within a given period of time, the rates of which will be agreed upon between the owner of the system and the utility company.

These are what are commonly called Net Metering Agreements and they define the terms of the rates payable by the utility company or the amount of credit given to the customer for producing net electricity with their PV systems.

Solar Electric or PV systems can be used both for commercial and residential purposes.


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