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How Do Solar Panels Work?

photograph of solar panels with a sunset in the background

Solar panels are an essential part of our renewable energy infrastructure. They convert sunlight into electricity, which can then be used to power homes and businesses. But how exactly do they convert sunlight into usable electricity?

What is Solar Energy?

To understand how solar panels work, it's important to first understand what solar energy is. Solar energy is a type of renewable energy that comes from sunlight. The sun emits large amounts of electromagnetic radiation, including light and heat. This radiation travels through space and reaches Earth's atmosphere, where some of it is absorbed by the planet. The Earth receives enough solar energy to provide electricity to every home on the planet! Solar panels are the tools used to collect solar energy.

What is the Photovoltaic Effect?

In essence, a solar panel harnesses the power of sunlight to generate electricity. When photons, the particles of sunlight, dislodge electrons from atoms, they start moving, creating a flow of electrons. This flow is what we know as electricity. Solar panels are carefully designed to capture and convert this flow into a usable electric current. This remarkable process is known as the photovoltaic effect.

How is Electricity Produced from Solar Energy?

The process of generating electricity from solar energy starts with solar cells, which are the building blocks of solar panels. Solar cells are made up of layers of silicon, a semiconductor material that can absorb photons and release electrons to create electricity. When sunlight hits the solar cells, it knocks free the negatively charged electrons in the silicon atoms, causing them to flow through an external circuit as direct current (DC) electricity.

Converting DC Electricity to AC Electricity

Most homes and businesses, however, do not use DC electricity. They use alternating current (AC) electricity. To make the solar energy useful to power household appliances or other devices, a component called an inverter converts the DC electricity into AC electricity that can be used in homes and buildings. An inverter is one of the most important pieces of equipment in a solar energy system.

How Does Electricity from Solar Energy Connect to the Power Grid?

Once converted to AC electricity, it can be fed into the power grid, which is a network of transmission lines that deliver electricity from power plants to homes and businesses. Solar panels can either be connected to the power grid or used as standalone systems, depending on the specific type of solar system.

How can I lease my land for solar panels?

Solar panels are an incredible technology that allows us to harness the abundant energy of the sun to generate electricity. Understanding how solar panels work is important in order to fully appreciate and take advantage of this renewable energy source.

If you own a plot of land and are interested in leasing it for solar panels, there are various companies that specialize in developing, installing, and maintaining solar farms.

Many of these companies offer long-term lease agreements with annual solar lease payments. If you are interested in learning about your property's estimated potential for a solar lease, generate your free property report on LandGate's map below. If you like what you see, you can list your property for lease for free on our open marketplace that is used by hundreds of high-intent energy investors across the country.


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