Power drives our lives, but there has been a constant shift to adopt renewable energy sources in recent years. Power consumption is one of the contributing factors to the increasing carbon footprint.
However, there has been a shift to adopt solar energy in the last decade. Solar power is finding several use cases, from lighting up the street light to providing power to the entire house.
The growth rate in the world’s renewable energy capacity jumped 45% in 2020, and the UK is amongst the 12 countries for solar power capacity.
In the times to come, we will witness a whopping rise in the use of solar power. The world is now switching to more sustainable energy resources, and power companies will soon be more aggressively harnessing solar energy.
Solar panels are an integral component of the solar power system. It captures the sun’s rays and triggers their conversion into a usable energy form. While it may look like a simple film, the solar panels comprise six different elements. These elements enable the efficient transmission of solar energy by capturing it.
Understanding More About Solar Panels
A solar panel consists of solar cells. These panels collect solar energy from the sun and convert it into electricity. These cells are made from different layers of metals like silicon phosphorus and boron.
The silicon layer acts as a conductor, allowing the flow of energy. Boron imparts a positive charge, and the phosphorus acts as the negative layer.
The functioning of solar panels is very simple. A solar panel has 60 -90 solar cells. When the sun rays strike the upper layer of the panel, it pushes the electrons from the silicon and moves into the electric field generated by the solar cells.
This results in a directional current flow converted into usable solar power. This process is called the photovoltaic effect, and so the solar panels are also known as photovoltaic panels.
Key Components of Solar Panel
A typical solar panel comprises of five major components:
- Silicon solar cells
- A metal frame
- A glass sheet
- A standard 12V wire
- Bus wire
Delving Deeper into Key Components of Solar Panels
Silicon solar cells – Solar cells play a pivotal role in harnessing the sun’s energy. These are responsible for converting solar light into electric power via the photovoltaic effect. These solar cells are arranged between the glass panels. The silicon cells interact with the glass wafer sheet, thus creating an electric charge.
The solar cells also impact the efficiency and cost of the solar power system. Unlike the earlier times, solar cells are far more efficient. The efficiency of a solar panel is directly proportional to solar cells.
Types of Solar Panels
Apprehensions are surrounding the efficacy of the solar energy system, especially in regions like the UK where the temperature plummets below zero and sun rays become a rare affair.
However, there has been a considerable improvement in the efficiency of solar panels. Different types of solar panels offer different efficiency, and here we will highlight the popular types.
- Monocrystalline silicon panels– As evident from its name, these are made of a single crystal.
- Polycrystalline silicon panels- It has several silicon crystals. However, these panels are not as efficient as monocrystalline ones but are cheaper.
- Thin-film solar panels– These are made from amorphous silicon. However, they are not so efficient.
Tabular Representation of the different types of solar cells
|Monocrystalline Solar Panels are also called Mono-SI||These offer the efficiency of approximately 20%||Offers higher efficiency|
Good for commercial use
High lifetime value
|It is expensive|
|Polycrystalline Solar Panels or p-Si||These offer the efficiency of approximately 15%||Low-cost option||These are sensitive to a higher temperature|
|Amorphous Silicon Solar Panels or A-SI||These offer the efficiency of around 7-10%||Lower in cost|
They are flexible
|Concentrated Photo Voltaic Cell||These are high efficiency and proved the energy-efficiency of 41%||High performance||Solar tracker and cooling system are important to ensure its efficient performance|
Metal frame: The next important component of the solar power system is a metal frame, usually made of aluminium. The metal frame keeps everything together, and acts as a protective layer to combat inclement weather.
Glass sheet: This glass sheet is 6-7 millimetres thick. In addition to the metal framing, the glass sheet also plays an integral role in protecting the solar cells. It enhances the solar panel’s durability and covers the solar cells.
Within the glass case, there is a protective back sheet. It helps in reducing heat dissipation and prevents humidity buildup in the panel. The right temperature of the panel plays a pivotal role in ensuring its efficiency. If the temperature increases more than the desired amount, it can lower the solar panel output.
Thus reducing the efficiency of the solar power system. Hence, most PV manufacturers ensure that the panel’s temperature is maintained and there is no overheating.
Standard 12V wire – The wiring regulates energy transfer to the inverter. Hence, it impacts the efficiency of the solar power system.
Bus wire – This wire is used to connect the solar cells parallelly. A solder layer covers these, and the wires are thick enough to carry the electric current.
Why is Silicon Used for Making Solar Panels?
As mentioned above, the material of solar panels impacts its efficiency. Silicon is prominently used in solar panels. It acts as a semiconductor allowing the flow of current. The beneficial properties of solar panels make them so useful for the solar panel. These properties are
- Availability in abundance. Silicon is easily available and hence aids for large-scale production.
- Silicon is easy to optimise, i.e. it easily triggers the photovoltaic effect, thus promoting efficient electricity production.
- It has a longer life. Silicone has a longer life span, thus making it a valuable material for solar panel construction.
Silicon is predominantly material for solar panels; around 95% of solar panels are silicon. However, there are experiments on using organic photovoltaic cells.
Is Solar Energy the Future?
The power companies and the government continue to address environmental issues and climatic change. One of the key questions that most power companies address is adopting the eco-conscious energy production method. The solar energy capacity has grown by 50% in the US and reached 76 gigawatts. A conscious effort to adopt a more sustainable energy source will bring change.
Many people have also realised the importance and benefit of solar power, and hence they are also showing their inclination toward solar panel installation. However, costing remains an area of concern. The governments in various nations are offering subsidies on solar energy, thus promoting its use.
The future is all about solar power and harnessing solar energy. One of the prominent reasons for the growing popularity of solar energy is that it produces no hazardous emissions. Hence a more sustainable and environmental-friendly option.