Pre-Qualify in 30 seconds 🔥
Fact Checked

How Is Solar Energy Converted Into Electricity?

Learn how the sun’s energy can become the energy your home needs. Stop relying on fossil fuels and make the switch to the sun’s rays instead with SmartSolar.org.
Solar Panels
5 minutes
Written by:
Joey Cheek
Updated on:
November 10, 2022

Solar energy is converted into electricity, allowing homes and businesses to get all of the power they need from an eco-friendly source. 

Is there enough solar energy coming from the sun to do this? Each year, the Earth absorbs huge amounts of solar ray energy. Just 70% of what hits the planet equals about 3.85 million exajoules. Considering this, just one hour of solar energy absorption by the planet is enough to provide electric power to the entire world for a full year. 

What Is Solar Energy?

Solar energy released by the sun can be used to produce electricity, but that does not have to happen at a solar plant – it can happen on the roof of your home. The key is to understand how to convert solar energy into electricity generated to power home appliances.

There is no doubt this is an incredible resource for energy, but how do we take the sun’s rays and turn them into a powerful source of fuel for the planet’s inhabitants? A portion of the process has to do with solar panel installation. Properly placed solar panels capture the energy from the sun, converting it into electricity, which is then further converted into usable electricity for homes and businesses. 

How Solar Energy Is Converted into Power

Take a closer look at how solar energy becomes electrical energy you can use within your home. Solar energy technologies are complex, but a solar power system may not be as difficult to utilize as you may think.

Sunlight Activates the Solar Panels

Each solar panel has a layer of silicon cells along with a metal frame and a glass casing. A film is around this glass and there are wires connecting the components. A number of individual panels are used together, creating a solar array. Solar panels are often placed on rooftops or on the ground in an open area.

Each panel has solar cells on it, often called photovoltaic cells. When the sun strikes them, the cells absorb sunlight.

Solar Cells Product Electrical Current

Inside the solar cells are semiconductor wafers that are made from silicon, one positively charged and the other negatively charged. As a result of this design, an electric field forms. As the sun strikes the panel, this energizes the cell. This leads to the electrons breaking from the atoms. An electrical current occurs as the electrons are activated by the electric field.

The Solar Panel Creates Electricity

In this setup, the solar cell is working to create an electrical current. The current created is called DC electricity, or direct current electricity. That’s not usually the right form for use in a home. That’s where the inverter on the solar power system comes into play. It converts DC electricity into AC electricity, or alternating current electricity, which is what is found in most homes.

The Power Meets the Home’s Needs

The photovoltaic cell in the panels is working at generating electricity for use. Now that it is AC electricity, the solar power is then sent to the electrical panel in the home and dispersed across the home, feeding electricity to your home’s appliances. This works in the same way as energy coming into your home from the electric utility company, generating electrical power to meet your needs. 

Your home stays connected to the power company’s electrical grid. That means, if the solar cell does not produce enough electricity, your home can still get what it needs from the grid. However, solar can satisfy the energy needs of most homes.

Net Metering Usage

During the day, the power generated from your solar panels can be stored in batteries to use later. With net metering, that extra active solar energy can be sent to the utility company’s grid. 

However, when you do not produce enough electricity to meet your needs, you can pull electricity from the grid. During daylight hours, you are likely to have what you need in energy., At night, though, that may not happen, as with cloudy days in the northern hemisphere. You still need energy, though, for everything from keeping the lights on to producing hot water. Net metering makes that possible.

The entire system works without you having to do anything. The sun's rays activate the system when the sun rises each day, creating power for your home and storing it until you need it. That electricity becomes usable in your home immediately, allowing your appliances to no longer be dependent on the power company’s grid.

This leads to many benefits. With photovoltaic technology, there are a few different setup options, and the size and type of panels you select can play a role in the results you get.

How SmartSolar.org Can Help 

SmartSolar.org can help you with the entire process. When the sun is shining, you could be producing the electricity you need for your home, reducing your dependence on the utility company and cutting your utility costs. 

Take the SmartSolar.org quiz today to learn more about solar power and if it’s right for your home. 

Joey Cheek

Meet the author:

Joey Cheek

Joey Cheek spent 10 years on the US National Speedskating Team where he competed in two Olympic Games, winning gold, silver, and bronze medals. He attended Princeton before diving into the startup and tech world. In 2011 he launched a livestreaming platform for sports before leading a team of engineers building next-gen news and content apps for Fortune 100 companies. He is the CEO and co-founder of SmartSolar.org, whose mission is to move the earth to cheap, abundant, carbon-free energy.

Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date with the latest solar and environmental information:
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.