How a Solar Panel Works

Rows of Solar Panel under clear sky.

When you’re looking to modernise and improve your business, you should definitely look into solar energy. The sun is the greatest source of energy on this planet; it powers all of the plants that cover the planet. In addition to being an incredibly powerful source of energy, it is also a very clean energy source. Fossil fuels contribute to pollution; they’re also running out at an ever-increasing pace. The sun doesn’t look to be running out any time soon; most estimates say that the sun should last for another five million years. That ought to be more than enough to keep the lights on in your business.

So, when you’re looking to cut your energy costs, you should definitely look into the free energy source that’s going to last for millions of years to come. However, harnessing all of that power isn’t always so straightforward. You’re going to have to wade through the claims of several different companies that are going to want to sell you solar panels. Before you secure a quote and decide how reliable it is, you should probably know a thing or two about how the panels work. That way, you’ll know if you’re being treated fairly.

How They Work

There are different technologies of solar panels, but essentially, they all react to sunlight to create electricity through the photovoltaic effect. This effect is a reaction to which exposure to light causes the electrons present in the solar panel to become excited. These electrons jump free of their bonds and get free. This ionises the chemicals inside the panels, creating electrical energy. That’s a very rough sketch of how it works. As you can see, this system passively creates electricity. Therefore, the solar panels are not very efficient and that’s why you see entire roofs covered in them. That’s not to say they’re not worth it; they can be fairly inefficient since the sun is out all day. Some panels have 8% efficiency ratings; 16% is also a fairly common efficiency. Some panels are able to achieve over 19% efficiency, but this is not very common, so you should be sceptical.


So, now that you have a rough understanding of how they work, you should be able to understand the quotes of a contractor a little bit better. When you are shopping around for solar panel quotes, you should analyse the validity of the different claims. You are going to need to figure out how much electricity you use on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis; this is probably shown on your most recent electricity bill, so that should be easy. That will tell you how many kilowatt-hours (KWH) you’ll need in a given month. That means you should be able to figure out roughly how many solar panels you need, depending on the efficiency of the panels. You do have to take into account a few other things, though. You have to consider that your location is going to affect the amount of sunlight you get.

In the cloudy UK, you can still produce large amounts of electricity from solar energy, but perhaps, not as much as one could in South Africa. Also, you need to address your location; if you are surrounded by tall buildings or tall trees, you’re going to get slightly less light.