Solar power shows up in the news more and more often these days. Some of it stems from the advantages of solar energy, like the ever-popular lower utility bills. It’s also one of the more direct ways of going green with your home by embracing renewable energy.
After all, every home that adopts solar means a reduction in the fossil fuels used for electricity production.
If you’re thinking about solar panel installation, you may also wonder about the science behind solar power. While we all know that those panels convert sunlight into an electrical energy source, it’s often unclear how. If you want to know more about the science, keep reading for a basic overview.
What Is Electricity?
Understanding the science behind solar panels means starting with electricity. Think back to those middle school science classes where they talked about atoms.
At their most basic, atoms are really just protons, neutrons, and electrons in various combinations. Protons and neutrons stick together at the center of the atom, like a couple of parents. Electrons, though, orbit at a distance like willful teenagers who don’t want to get seen with their parents.
Under the right conditions, you can knock some of those electrons loose from an atom. String together a lot of electrons and you’ve got electrical current.
The real magic of solar panels comes from the photovoltaic effect. The solar cells inside the panels are primarily made of two slices of a semiconductor, usually silicon. Both pieces are “doped” to give one a positive charge and the other a negative charge.
Where the two slices meet is called the p-n junction. When sunlight hits the surface of the cell, it energizes the electrons and lets them change orbit or jump. When they jump through the junction, the electrical field directs them out of the cell and into your solar panel system.
Panel Installation Process
The panel installation process entails putting the panels together in such a way that the electricity all flows in the same direction to the same place. While some people try to take it on a DIY project, it’s almost always better to let a panel installation company like Blue Raven Solar deal with it.
Part of it is a safety issue, as a panel system typically goes onto your roof. The other part is that the company can explain the science of the system more completely for you.
Panel Installation and You
While the idea of simply catching electricity from the sun using silicon may sound fanciful, solar panel installation is actually based on more than a century of research and sound science. It’s also an excellent way for a homeowner to reduce their personal dependence of fossil fuels.
The upshot is that numerous tax incentives and rebates exist that can help you finance your new solar panel system. It’s not often that sound science and tax breaks go hand-in-hand.