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How Does Solar Energy Work? 5 Steps

How Does Solar Energy Work? 5 Steps

By now, most people have seen solar panels and understand what they do. They convert sunlight into energy. You may know what solar panels do, but how does solar energy work? Here is a breakdown of the process.


Solar energy begins, of course, with sunlight. Without sunlight, there is no energy to absorb. But what is it about sunlight that allows it to make solar energy work? Light is actually a form of electromagnetic radiation. There is a broad spectrum of electromagnetic radiation, and visible light is a small part. Other examples include gamma rays, microwaves, and radio waves. EM energy is all around us. Without it, there would be nothing for the panels to absorb and convert into electricity.

PV Cells

Photovoltaic cells, or PV cells, are what solar panels use to convert sunlight into energy. Solar panels contain many of these cells, set up in an array and connected to an electrical grid. PV cells have many layers of materials to assist in energy conversion.

The top layer is an anti-reflective coating. This maximizes the amount of sunlight absorption. If too much light reflects off of a solar panel, there won’t be much left to absorb.

The layer that does the main job is the semiconductor layer. There are two types of semiconductors that work together, the p-type and n-type. These combine at p-n junction, where the conversion takes place. As the names suggest, P is positive and N is negative.

Light is made up of photons, which are bundles of energy. The semiconductors transfer the energy to electrons, allowing them to move. Positively charged particles move toward the negative side and vice versa. This movement is what creates the electric current.

DC Conversion

How does solar energy work to get to my home? Solar Panels produce direct current electricity, called DC. Your home uses alternating current, called AC. To make them compatible, your solar panel system uses an inverter. This will convert the DC power into AC power, so your home can use it.

An inverter performs the task of reversing the flow of electricity into an AC frequency. This happens at 50-60hz or 50-60 times per second. This alternating flow of electrical current is where we get the term AC.


Once the DC to AC conversion takes place, the electricity has to actually get to your home. The switchboard handles this task. The inverter sends the AC power to the switchboard which then connects it to your appliances. If there is any energy left over, the switchboard sends it to the meter.

Bi-Directional Meter

Okay, the technical stuff is cool, but how does solar energy work to save money? Homes with solar energy use a bi-directional utility meter. Don’t worry, it’s a good thing! This meter measures the electricity going to your home as well as energy sent back to the grid. We call this net-metering.

What it means for you as a homeowner is cost savings. The electric company takes the energy you use from the grid and subtracts the energy sent back. They apply this as a credit to your bill, meaning you pay less.

Learn More

How Does Solar Energy Work

If you still have questions about how solar energy works, reach out! We can also any questions you may have about solar panel installation and service.

SKR Solar serves residential and commercial customers throughout the Southern California region. We’re happy to help you learn more about the benefits of solar energy. We can show you how much money you could save and offer FREE consultations.

Give us a call to learn how solar energy can help you and your family or business today!

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