Solar power has never been more popular… but not everyone is clued in to how it works. After all, how can a gargantuan ball of gas and plasma 93,000,000 miles away power your garage door or your TV remote?
It might sound complex, but recent developments in solar technology have made it as simple as a 4-step process:
The capturable energy in sunlight is called a photon. Solar panel modules are mostly made of photovoltaic (PV) cells. These PV cells in turn are made of a semi-conductive material, usually silicon. When sunlight hits them, the sun’s photons trigger “sleeping” electrons inside the silicon. These electrons ‘wake up’ and start escaping the silicon in the form of direct current (DC) electricity. (We call this the photovoltaic effect)
Your home can’t use DC electricity to power itself. So the electricity is funneled into a device called an inverter, which converts it to alternating current (AC) energy. This is done by switching the direction the electricity is traveling back and forth at super-high speeds
This “fresh-squeezed” AC energy is then run through your net meter before entering your household. At this point it’s freely available for you to use – no extra work on your end needed.
When your solar system produces more energy than you need, none of it goes to waste. If you’re still hooked up to the electrical grid, that extra energy is sent through the grid for your city to use as they please – which they will happily pay you for! If your system isn’t producing enough energy on its own, you’ll be able to “rent” energy from the grid using credits you’ve built up from your excess energy. And if you’ve made the decision to go off-grid, you can use solar batteries to store your extra energy for a rainy day (no pun intended).