Solar panel: Types and How does it work?

What is Solar Panel?

Solar energy begins with the sun. Solar panels (also known as “PV panels”) are used to convert light from the sun, which is composed of particles of energy called “photons”, into electricity that can be used to power electrical loads.

Solar panels can be used for absorbing the sun’s rays and convert them into electricity or heat. Also, it is used for a wide variety of applications including remote power systems for cabins, telecommunications equipment, remote sensing, and of course for the production of electricity by residential and commercial solar electric systems.

Most solar panels are made of silicon, which is the main component of natural beach sand. Silicon is abundantly available, making it the second most available element on Earth. However, converting sand into high-grade silicon comes at a high cost and is an energy-intensive process.

How do solar panels work?

Simply put, a solar panel works by allowing photons, or particles of light, to knock electrons free from atoms, generating a flow of electricity. Solar panels actually comprise many, smaller units called photovoltaic cells. (Photovoltaic simply means they convert sunlight into electricity.) Many cells linked together make up a solar panel.

Each photovoltaic cell is basically a sandwich made up of two slices of semi-conducting material, usually silicon the same stuff used in microelectronics.

To work, photovoltaic cells need to establish an electric field. Much like a magnetic field, which occurs due to opposite poles, an electric field occurs when opposite charges are separated. To get this field, manufacturers “dope” silicon with other materials, giving each slice of the sandwich a positive or negative electrical charge.

Solar Panel Working

Specifically, they seed phosphorous into the top layer of silicon, which adds extra electrons, with a negative charge, to that layer. Meanwhile, the bottom layer gets a dose of boron, which results in fewer electrons, or a positive charge. This all adds up to an electric field at the junction between the silicon layers. Then, when a photon of sunlight knocks an electron free, the electric field will push that electron out of the silicon junction.

A couple of other components of the cell turn these electrons into usable power. Metal conductive plates on the sides of the cell collect the electrons and transfer them to wires. At that point, the electrons can flow like any other source of electricity.

Recently, researchers have produced ultrathin, flexible solar cells that are only 1.3 microns thick about 1/100th the width of a human hair and are 20 times lighter than a sheet of office paper. In fact, the cells are so light that they can sit on top of a soap bubble, and yet they produce energy with about as much efficiency as glass-based solar cells, scientists reported in a study published in 2016 in the journal Organic Electronics. Lighter, more flexible solar cells such as these could be integrated into architecture, aerospace technology, or even wearable electronics. 

There are other types of solar power technology including solar thermal and concentrated solar power (CSP)  that operate in a different fashion than photovoltaic solar panels, but all harness the power of sunlight to either create electricity or to heat water or air.

Components of Solar System

When you can see solar power systems on the roofs of people’s homes, have you ever wondered what all the components needed to make these systems work? In this article, we have listed these components and explained what they do.

Parts and Components Use in Solar Panel Installation

Although unpredictable, solar panels or solar intertie photovoltaic (PV) systems are very simple. In the beginning, the solar system consists of panels to collect sunlight and convert it into electricity. Subsequently, the inverter receives a DC signal and transforms into grid-compatible AC power – commonly used by us in our homes. To ensure safety, the units have various switch boxes. Overall, these units are associate with the use of wires and grooves.

The basic components require for functioning of PV systems are given below:

Panels

They are made up of three layers:

PV panels are among the common forms of panels, mostly used for residential installations. Three layers contribute to these panels.

  • N-layer – Here, silicon is mixed with phosphorus
  • P / N Junction – It is 100% Silicon
  • P-layer – Boron is mixed with silicon

Mounting tools

Mounting PV panels is necessarily important. Initially, the panels need to be installed in a place where they can bathe in light for a year. The challenge here is to mount the panel with integrity so that they can stand for 25 years or even longer.

DC-to-AC inverters

The inverter bus works by using a switch series dubbed-solid-state switches, which flip the DC current 50 times per second and create AC current. In other words, low-voltage, high-current signals are converted to 120VAC (or 240 VAC), which goes well with grid power. Depending on reliability, DC-to-AC inverters are typically the weak link in all solar systems. Therefore, they should be of high quality.

Batteries

Not every solar panel has a battery. Nevertheless, some systems are capable of generating more power for the property on which they are mounted. This is because they have a battery that stores extra energy. You can use the stored energy after some time when the weather is not sunny.

Disconnect switch

Disconnect switches have an important role in solar power systems. These switches should be fixed in a place that is easily available. All family members should know where these switches are so that they can switch off the system if needed. There are disconnect switches for protection. If the electrical unit in your home shows any abnormal behavior, then you need to shut down the solar system immediately.

Miscellaneous hardware

Some other hardware expenses include wiring, connection to the domestic main fuse box, and drain. However, these things require labor during the installation of the solar system.

  • Note:- Installing a PV system is a great decision. You can choose to install the system on your own or with the help of a professional installer. The main concern for safety is adherence to the National Electric Code.

Types of Solar Panel

A solar or photovoltaic cell is an electrical device that converts light energy into electricity using a photovoltaic effect. The electrical characteristics of a solar cell, which is a type of photoelectric cell, include voltage, current, and resistance, and differ in exposure to light. Solar cells are the core elements of a photovoltaic module or solar panel.

Most solar cells have some other type of silicon. In fact, about 90% of all solar or photovoltaic cells contain silicon. The efficiency of a solar cell to convert sunlight into power is directly proportional to the purity of their silicon molecules. Also, the better the efficiency, the more expensive the solar panel is. However, this aspect should not be the deciding factor for choosing one type and not the other.

In addition to the hybrid version, solar panels are classified into three types, mainly in commercial production. All three types are silicon semiconductor-based.

Monocrystalline Solar Panel

These solar panels are made using thin wafers of silicon, which are extracted from artificially grown crystals. Single crystals developed in isolation help to form these cells and make them the most efficient. This is why these are the most expensive among the other types. Compared to their counterpart polycrystalline cells, monocrystalline solar cells are about 35% more expensive and provide an efficiency rate between 15–24%.

Monocrystalline solar cell

Polycrystalline Solar Panel

Polycrystalline solar cells are also made using thin silicon wafers derived from artificially grown crystals, the only difference being that these are not single crystals. Rather, they use multiple interlocking silicon crystals propagated simultaneously. Therefore, their production is less expensive and they still offer an efficiency rate of 13–18%.

Thin film solar panel

If you’re looking for a more cost-effective option, consider thin films. Thin film solar modules are made by placing one or more films of photovoltaic material (such as silicon, cadmium or copper) on a substrate. These types of solar modules are the easiest to manufacture and, due to economies of scale, cheaper than the alternatives, as less material is required to manufacture them.

They are also flexible, which opens up many possibilities for alternative applications and is less affected by high temperatures. The main problem is that they take up a lot of space and are generally unsuitable for residential installations. In addition, they offer the shortest guarantees, as their lifespan is shorter than that of mono- and polycrystalline solar modules. However, they can be a good option to choose between the different types of solar panels that have plenty of space.

Amorphous Solar Panel

The cheapest form of solar cells is an amorphous solar cell. These are newly launching cells that are manufacture in a unique way. They avoid the use of crystals. Instead, their production process involves thin silicon deposits on the backing substrate.

Amorphous solar cells provide two major benefits, ie. Flexibility in solar cells with its extremely thin silicon layer, and high efficiency in low levels of light during winter.

But, while these promise the above benefits, they also compromise on efficiency. They provide the lowest efficiency rates of 7% – 9% compared to the other two variants. Thus, they require about twice the panel area to give the same output. Until now, they do not even have an approved production technology in the industry, and therefore, they are less robust than the other two types of solar panels.

Biohybrid Solar Panel

It is not a completely solar cell, but a hybrid solar cell is a mixture of monocrystalline solar cells and amorphous solar cells. Hybrid solar cells called HET (heterojunction with intrinsic thin layer) solar cells. Compared to each individual type of solar cell, the hybrid type is the most efficient due to the combination of the power of the two solar cells. These work best during sunny seasons, ie beyond the 250C temperature. In view of the same, this helps generates about 10% more electricity.

If one has to choose the best, polycrystalline cells prove to be the most suitable for most installations due to their value for money, design and efficiency rate.

Advantages and disadvantages of solar panels

Advantages of Solar Panels

Following are advantages of solar panel installation

  • less pollution: The first advantage of using solar energy is that it does not spread any kind of contamination. If it produces pollution, it is that which arises from the solar panel, because of their combination, installation, and transfer of goods to industrial facilities. This indicates that when these use in your home, they do not harm the environment in any way.
  • Renewable Energy: Solar energy is a 100% renewable source of energy. This means that there is no limit to its availability. Fossil fuels perish in a few decades, but solar power always remains. You can rely on this form of energy as long as the sun rises.
  • Fossil fuel savings: As solar power continues to change fossil fuel use, it is helping to conserve more and more fossil fuels.
  • Easily Available: Almost every country can easily use solar energy. However, the only limitation is that it can be done only during the daytime. While oil reserves may remain for five or six decades to come, sunlight will last forever.
  • Roof installation: Solar panels can install on roofs. Thus, additional space is not required for these. Furthermore, it saves you money, as they provide a free power supply. However, the installation fee may be higher.

Disadvantages of solar panels

  • Cost: As mentioned earlier, the cost of installing a solar panel can be quite high, costing one of its cons. Currently, a high-quality solar panel can cost upwards of $ 1000.
  • Silicon waste: Most solar panels that consider the best are made of using silicon. This results in very high silicon dissipation.
  • Production only during the day: Although solar energy is available in abundance, it is a cone that it only generates during the day. This means that solar panels only work for half a day. In addition, weather can affect the way your solar panels work.
  • Large setup area: If you are a business owner, installing solar panels can be a challenge. It may not be possible to fix it on the roof. You may need a large terrain to fix them and get enough power.
  • Expensive due to battery storage: Batteries require to be a charge for homes and businesses use in the evening. They are large and heavy and thus need space to store them. Also, they require replacement from time to time, which costs you more.

FAQ

What is solar panel?

Solar energy begins with the sun. Solar panels (also known as “PV panels”) are used to convert light from the sun, which is composed of particles of energy called “photons”, into electricity that can be used to power electrical loads.

What is solar panel made of?

Most solar panels are made of silicon, which is the main component in natural beach sand. Silicon is abundantly available, making it the second most available element on Earth. However, converting sand into high grade silicon comes at a high cost and is an energy intensive process.

What is solar panel used for?

Solar panels can be used for absorbing the sun’s rays and convert them into electricity or heat. Also, it has a variety of applications including remote power systems for cabins, telecommunications equipment, remote sensing, and of course for the production of electricity by solar electric systems.

How do solar panels work?

Simply put, a solar panel works by allowing photons, or particles of light, to knock electrons free from atoms, generating a flow of electricity. Solar panels actually comprise many, smaller units called photovoltaic cells. This all adds up to an electric field at the junction between the silicon layers.

What are the different types of solar panels?

There are three major types of solar panels: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film. Each type has its own unique advantages and disadvantages, and the solar panel type best suited for your installation will depend on factors specific to your own property and desired system characteristics.

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