How Do Solar Panels Actually Produce Electricity?

Although solar energy is becoming more common and can be seen in various forms, it can still be slightly baffling as to how we take sun rays and turn it into something we can use to charge our cellphones. We know sun rays can give us sunburn and the energy helps plants grow, so what happens beneath the dark blue, grid-like surfaces that rest on top of your home. It all starts with the materials used. Many panels are made from silicone and although this a common naturally occurring element, it can be a pricey process to create the silicone crystals necessary for the production of solar panels. Because of this, it has become more common to find the panels made from CIGS — copper indium, gallium, and selenide — which are similar, but provide more reasonable costs.[1] Inside the panels there is a metal plate that acts as a conductor to trap the sun energy and then allow it to travel through wires to an object called a fused array combiner. The combiner is what leads us to the last step when all the magic happens. The energy is sent through an inverter which takes the current electricity and alternates the electrical current into a usable power source.

Now that we understand the interworking’s of the solar panels, it is equally — if not more — important to understand the external factors that impact the production of electricity such as shade, seasons, and tilt. For homes that may be lacking copious amounts of sunlight due to protruding objects like trees, buildings, etc., this can greatly limit the amount of available solar energy to your potential panels.

While trees can often times be trimmed, buildings, water towers, and more substantial entities cannot be moved and should be highly considered when purchasing residential solar panels. Different regions, states and even cities within a common state can experience extremely different seasonal patterns. Although the sun energy is vast and barely effected by clouds or temperature, it is still important to recognize the aspects that come with the change of seasons or in other words, the extremity of them.

Snow may seem like a for sure indicator of poor energy absorption, but in certain scenarios it can reflect light and actually increase panel performance, unless of course the panels are covered preventing optimal sun exposure. The other aspect of seasonal change is — depending on your geographical location — the suns position in the sky throughout the year and therefore the optimal angle of sunlight reaching your home. For instance, residing in the North or South Hemisphere are going to greatly impact the angle recommended. Concern of the angle of light accessible to the solar panels is also vital in determining the tilt or placement of the panels on your home/property.

Factors such as the shape and size of a house’s roof, angle and tilt of the roof , and even the option to place panels in a yard are all going to be important things to consider when determining if or how many solar panels are going to benefit your household.



Solar Opportunities is a Full-Service Solar Consultation, Design and Install company services Pennsylvania. Our cutting edge design platform enables inquiring minds to access all the information they need to know in a clear, transparent fashion in a short amount of time. Systems can be designed from satellite imagery for residential, commercial and agricultural properties. For more information, visit us at, email us at or call us at 570-637-6384.