how solar panels work diagram

How Solar Power Works

Solar power panels contain the same material—silicon—used in computer chips. Silicon wafers with special electrical characteristics are assembled in layers, into photovoltaic cells that produce electric current when exposed to sunlight.

Solar panels produce direct current. The lights, appliances and electronics in your home use alternating current. So a device called an inverter turns the direct current into alternating current before it is fed into your electric service panel. A solar power system can have either a single central inverter or several small microinverters, with one installed behind each solar panel on your roof.

Direct current from the solar panels is turned into alternating current by the inverter or microinverters. The alternating current power flows into your electric service panel.

Whenever your home’s power consumption is less than the amount of electricity your solar power system is producing at that instant, the excess electricity is fed through a special two-way meter back to the utility’s electric power grid. A special utility billing program called net metering credits you for this excess solar electricity production.