How Solar Energy Works – A Helpful Guide

The sun is a very consistent energy source. It is there day in and day out, providing millions of people just like you and me with reliable and clean power. But how exactly does solar energy work? In this article, we will be answering that exact question simply and concisely.

How Solar Energy Works – The Solar Panels

To begin, let’s look at solar panels, the main component of a solar energy system. During any given day, the sun shines 3 x 1026 watts of energy and about 1.74 x 1017 watts strike the earth. This means for about every one square meter (or about 10 square feet of the earth’s surface), one kilowatt of energy is received. That means your average backyard swimming pool (48 square meters/ 516 square feet) will receive 288 kilowatts of energy on one day over a 6-hour time frame. That’s about 10x the energy an average US household needs in one day! How much free, renewable solar energy are you missing out on right now considering those numbers? The only issue is not wasting this energy, but rather how to collect it for direct usage. This is where solar panels come in to help harvest this energy.

The following is a good video by LiveScience that explains how this takes place:

How Solar Energy Works – The Solar Panel System

Perhaps you’ve heard a friend or family member talk about a solar panel system they recently installed and the amazing benefits they were experiencing. It’s true, solar energy does indeed present amazing benefits for you, your wallet, and the environment. But these savings don’t just magically happen. There is some incredible technology in a solar energy system that is making this possible.

With that being said, let’s take a look into this infographic of a typical residential grid tied solar system.

graphic of solar power generating process
  1. The photons in sunlight hit your solar panels, knocking electrons loose from atoms (see video above). These electrons are then collected and transferred along the wires running from your panels. This is known as a DC (direct current) electricity.
  2. The solar inverter, another prominent piece of a solar energy system, is responsible for taking this DC electricity and turning it into AC (alternating current) electricity that can be used in your house.
  3. This AC electricity is then taken into your home and used by your home’s appliances and lighting.
  4. One of the benefits of a grid tied solar system is the ability to put extra AC electricity back out on the grid. This AC electricity can then be used up by other surrounding homes, and you will receive a credit (or payment) from the utility company. This is known as net metering.
  5. During nighttime or stormy weather when your system can’t produce electricity, your house can still pull electricity from the grid as needed.

And that right there is how solar energy works 101. See, it wasn’t as bad as you thought, was it? The truth is, solar energy systems are not rocket science. They are pretty straightforward and easy to understand. Now, the next step in your journey of solar education is to learn about the different types of solar energy systems: grid tied solar, off grid solar, grid tied with a battery backup, and net zero house living.  We have some helpful pages that explain these different types, and now that you know how solar energy works you will be able to understand more on these other pages!

How Solar Energy Works – Benefiting You

The next question is what’s next for you? If you’re interested in learning more about how solar energy works and how you could benefit from “power out of thin air” (as Belmont Solar’s founder, Ben Zook, likes to say) you can contact us right now and we’ll guide you through your options.

Your home could be more energy efficient and your energy bill each month could be much smaller by harnessing the power of the sun with solar panels. Even if you’re not ready for a solar panel system there are other things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and your energy bill. We can answer your questions or you could download our free solar guide below.