All You need to Know about Solar Panels

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Updated on: Educator Review By: Michelle Connolly

Solar panels, sometimes known as PV panels, are a technology that converts solar light into electricity using energy particles called “photons”. They can be used to power electrical loads for residential and commercial purposes and other applications. They can also power cabins, telecommunications equipment, remote sensing, and other applications.


Solar energy has been in development for over a century. Initially, it was used to create steam which powered machines. However, it was not until Edmond Becquerel discovered the “photovoltaic effect” that sunlight could be converted into electrical energy. In 1893, Charles Fritts developed the initial solar cell by applying a thin layer of gold onto selenium sheets. This paved the way for the invention of the modern solar panel.

An American inventor called Russell Ohl, who worked at Bell Laboratories, invented the first silicon solar cell in 1941, and was produced in 1954. Solar panels were first widely used in spacecraft, but most people probably first used a solar panel in their new calculator in the 1970s.

Solar panels and entire solar panel systems are powered by various applications today. Yes, calculators still employ solar panels in the form of solar cells. However, they are also being utilised to power entire residences and business structures, like the California headquarters of Google, with solar energy.

Structure of Solar Panels

Clean and renewable energy is captured from sunlight via solar panels and converted into electricity, which is used to power electrical devices. Each solar cell of a solar panel comprises layers of silicon, phosphorous, and boron, which provide negative and positive charges, respectively. Photons are absorbed by solar panels, which then start an electric current. Electrons can be released from their atomic orbits when solar cells produce an electric field and are pulled into a directed current. The solar panel generates energy through a process that involves photons striking its surface. The complete procedure is referred to as the Photovoltaic effect.

Most homes have plenty of roof space to house the necessary solar panels. With these solar panels, it is possible to produce enough solar energy to fulfil the entire energy requirements of the home. The main power grid receives any excess energy produced, which benefits electricity use at night.

A solar array connected to the grid in a well-balanced arrangement produces energy during the day and is used by the house at night. Owners of solar generators can receive payment through net metering programmes if their system generates more electricity than is required for the home. To set up an off-grid solar system, you will need a battery bank, a charge controller, and in many cases, an inverter. The solar array generates direct current (DC) electricity which is then routed through the charge controller. Controller and is sent to the battery bank.

The inverter transforms the DC into AC, which can be utilised for devices that do not operate on DC, after which power is drawn from the battery bank. With the help of an inverter, solar panels are designed to meet even the challenging electrical load needs. AC is used to power loads in residential or commercial buildings, leisure vehicles, boats, far-off cabins or cottages, telecommunications equipment, oil and gas flow monitoring, RTU, SCADA, and other devices.

Importance of Solar Panels

Solar panels are a practical solution to generate electricity for many purposes. Off-grid living is a viable option for those living somewhere without access to the main electric utility grid. Solar power systems are a valuable resource for homes and cabins in remote areas, eliminating the need for expensive electric utility pole and cable installations from the nearest main grid access point. A solar electric system can be less expensive and provide power for up to three decades if properly maintained.

Living off-grid is made possible by solar panels, which provide the added advantage of being a clean and renewable energy source.Living off-grid is made possible by solar panels, which provide the added advantage of being a clean and renewable energy source. It is now more important than ever to take action to reduce the pressure greenhouse gas emissions put on our environment due to global climate change. Solar panels require low maintenance as they have no dynamic parts and are built to last for decades with proper upkeep.

Solar panels and solar energy have one significant advantage: once the initial installation costs are recouped, the electricity generated for the remaining lifespan of the system (which can last anywhere from 15 to 20 years, depending on the system’s quality) is free. This is a crucial benefit that should be noticed. Grid-tied solar power systems provide immediate benefits to their owners. These systems can eliminate monthly electric costs or even generate income for the owner by selling excess energy to the utility provider. This means that if the solar electric system generates more energy than the owner consumes, they can sell the extra energy for a profit.

Too many to enumerate; here are the additional uses and advantages of employing solar panels to generate your electrical needs. However, as you look around our website, you’ll learn much about how useful and adaptable solar power can be.

Solar Panels

The Components of Solar Panels


With silicon accounting for over 95% of the modules supplied today, silicon is considered the most common semiconductor material used in solar cells. In addition, it is the most widely utilised semiconductor in computer chips and the second most abundant element on Earth (after oxygen). The crystalline silicon cells’ building blocks are interconnected silicon atoms to create a crystal lattice. This lattice offers a well-organised structure that improves the efficiency of turning light into electricity.

Silicon-based solar cells offer high efficiency, low cost, and long lifespan. Modules should last for at least 25 years and continue to generate more than 80% of their initial power after that.

Thin-film Photography 

One or more thin layers of PV material are deposited on a support material, such as plastic, glass or metal, to create a thin-film solar cell. The two most common thin-film PV semiconductors available today are copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) and cadmium telluride (CdTe). Both substances may be directly put on the front or back of the module’s surface.

After silicon, CdTe is the second most used PV material, and CdTe cells may be produced using low-cost production techniques. Even though they are now a more affordable option, silicon still has higher efficiency levels. Although CIGS cells exhibit great efficiencies and ideal PV material qualities in the lab, the intricacy of combining four parts makes a move from the lab to production more difficult. CdTe and CIGS need more protection for extended outdoor operation than silicon.

Perovisky Photovoltaics

Thin-film cells, known as perovskite solar cells, get their name from their distinctive crystal structure. The layers of materials used to construct perovskite cells are printed, coated, or vacuum-deposited onto an underlying support layer called the substrate. They can achieve efficiency comparable to crystalline silicon and are often simple to construct. Perovskite solar cells’ efficiency in the lab has increased more quickly from 3% in 2009 to over 25% in 2020. Perovskite PV cells must be stable enough to endure 20 years outside to be commercially viable. Thus, researchers are improving their durability and creating high-volume, low-cost manufacturing processes.

Organic Photovoltaics

Organic PV, or OPV, cells are made of organic compounds rich in carbon and can be designed to improve a particular PV cell property, such as bandgap, transparency, or colour. Although OPV cells are only about half as efficient and have shorter working lives than crystalline silicon cells, they may be less expensive to produce in large quantities. They can also be used with various supporting materials, like flexible plastic, expanding the uses of OPV.

Quantum Dots

Quantum dots, nanometer-sized semiconductor materials, are used in quantum dot solar cells to conduct electricity. Although quantum dots offer a novel method for processing semiconductor materials, they currently need to be more effective due to the difficulty of establishing an electrical connection between them. They can, however, be easily converted into solar cells. A spin-coat technique, a spray, or roll-to-roll printers like those used to print newspapers can all deposit them onto a substrate.

Quantum dots can be combined with other semiconductors, such as perovskites, to improve the performance of a multijunction solar cell since they exist in various sizes and have a variable bandgap. This allows them to catch light that is challenging to capture.

Photovoltaics Multijunction

Multijunction solar cells are created by overlaying various semiconductors to increase PV cell efficiency. Unlike single-junction cells, which contain just one semiconductor, these cells are effectively stacks of different semiconductor materials. Since each layer’s bandgap varies, they each absorb a unique portion of the solar spectrum, utilising more of the sun’s energy than single-junction cells. Because a layer below the first semiconductor layer absorbs the light that isn’t absorbed by it, multijunction solar cells can achieve record levels of efficiency.

A solar cell with precisely two bandgaps is called a tandem solar cell, whereas solar cells with more than one bandgap are known as multijunction. Multijunction III-V solar cells are multijunction solar cells that incorporate semiconductors from columns III and V of the periodic table.

Multijunction solar cells have shown efficiency greater than 45%, but because they are expensive and challenging to produce, they are only used in space exploration. The military uses III-V solar cells in drones, and scientists are looking into other applications where high efficiency is important.

Photovoltaics with Concentration

Concentration PV, sometimes called CPV, concentrates on a solar cell using a mirror or lens sunlight. Less PV material is needed since sunlight is concentrated in a smaller area. The highest overall efficiencies are attained using CPV cells and modules because PV materials become more effective when light is focused. However, proving the essential cost advantage over today’s high-volume silicon modules has become difficult since it requires more expensive materials, manufacturing procedures, and the capacity to follow the sun’s movement.

Advantages of Solar Power

1. Source of Renewable Energy

The availability of fossil fuels is still in decline, and when they are burned to produce electricity, they send toxic pollutants into the atmosphere. Solar energy can lessen our reliance on fossil fuels and our environmental effects.

Reduces Electric Bill Most users can use solar energy to power their homes as an addition to or substitute for buying electricity from the grid. Customers that switch to solar could significantly reduce their monthly power costs in light of the rising energy cost.

2. Independence from energy

A house powered only by solar energy can run completely off the grid, especially if a solar battery system is added to provide electricity throughout the night. These battery solutions can also transform solar systems into emergency backups in power shortages.

3. Solar energy Systems Raise Home Values.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory states that every dollar you save on electricity bills thanks to solar panels adds $20 to the value of your house. Additionally, properties with solar panels sell for 4% more than those without. A house’s charm and worth will rise if it includes solar panels because the owners will save money.

4. Long-Term Investments

Solar systems come with high start-up costs; however, reduced electricity bills typically offset these expenditures. Within six to ten years, consumers may typically break even on their investment, at which point they can begin to enjoy the benefits long before the system needs to be replaced or requires intensive care.

5. Low Costs of Maintenance

A solar system needs little maintenance after installation as long as the environment doesn’t damage it. Panels should perform without further customer intervention for many years if kept clean and clear of debris. 

Professional maintenance for your panels will run you anywhere from $140 to $180, and an annual inspection or cleaning can cost you about $150. However, warranties for solar panels often include them.

6. Serves the Community

Customers can lower their utility rates by selling the extra electricity their solar panels generate back to the utility company through net metering. Additionally, this frequently lessens a community’s dependency on fossil fuels.

7. Multiple Uses

Solar energy is incredibly adaptable and can power not just our houses and appliances but also satellites, yachts, and other off-the-grid locations and remote, off-the-grid areas.

8. Increasing Power Costs

Energy cost has increased over the previous ten years, and this trend is unlikely to reverse soon. Solar energy can lower a consumer’s monthly expenses, and many consumers can even sell additional power back to the grid because of net metering.

9. Price Reductions and Advances in Technology

Since the early days of solar energy, technology has come a long way, and new developments are produced daily. Even better, despite these developments, solar’s widespread use has lowered its price, making it more affordable for more users. The amount of money consumers have to pay out of pocket for a new solar system can be reduced with the aid of numerous state incentive programmes and a federal tax credit.

The Disadvantages of Solar Energy

1. The cost of Solar Panels is High

The cost of solar technology has decreased over the past ten years, but a full solar installation still demands a sizable investment. Before considering any subsidies and other fees, a client might anticipate spending approximately $18,000 on a complete solar installation for a home.

2. Reliant on sunlight

A system that relies on solar energy cannot generate electricity without sunlight. Customers in regions with less-than-ideal levels of sun exposure or inclement weather may find this a problem. This problem can be reduced by using solar batteries to store excess energy, and even when there are continual clouds, the best solar panels will continue to be economical and efficient enough to be installed.

3. Installation Might Not Be Easy

Although most components in installing solar panels are straightforward, installation can be challenging if you don’t like being on a roof or feel uncomfortable working with electricity. For instance, connecting the wiring from the panel to the house can be complicated for the typical do-it-yourselfer and should be left to the experts.

4. Space Restrictions

The cables and solar panels require space. Finding enough room with sufficient exposure might be challenging depending on the amount of solar panels needed, especially in less-spacious residential settings.

5. Costly Solar Energy Storage

Solar batteries are crucial to your solar panel system because they store the extra energy your solar panels produce. Nevertheless, prices can vary based on the size and kind of the battery. Compared to a household lithium-ion solar system, which may cost between $7,000 and $14,000., a single lead-acid battery, for instance, can cost between $200 and $800.

6. Manufacturing’s Impact on the Environment

The mining of resources and construction of solar panels both produce significant amounts of greenhouse gases, which harm the environment. According to a report by the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, solar panels can cover their own cost in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions within one to four years of use. While this is undoubtedly a drawback, much of it can be avoided.

7. Problems With Relocation

As a result of the semi-permanence of the structures and the difficulty, expense, and time involved in uninstalling and moving a solar system, panels are not typically something you transport from house to house. They are frequently best viewed as an investment in the building or piece of property that they are added to.

8. Lack of Resources

Although the amount of sunlight is limitless, the materials needed to make solar technology are not. The alternatives for mining these elements can have a considerable environmental impact, and the supply of the raw materials required to make solar products may need to be increased to fulfil future demand.

9. Options for Disposal or Recycling

The correct disposal of solar technology is essential since it contains some of the same environmentally hazardous materials as many consumer and commercial devices. Options for recycling solar panels are currently few.

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