Solar systems, or solar power systems, are solar photovoltaic systems that trap the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity. The energy emitted by the sun travels to the earth as discreet packets of energy known as photons. The semi-conducting materials in solar panels then convert this energy into a steady flow of electrons, which is electricity. Thus, a solar system works by harnessing the sun’s massively abundant energy incident on the earth. To visualize all this, see our post on solar systems diagrams.
A solar electric system is composed of many different components that work together to produce usable electricity from sunlight.
Photovoltaic or solar cells make up the heart of the solar panel. These are made of silicon or other semiconductor materials on a metal, polymer, or glass base. The solar cells are essentially the building blocks of a solar panel and do the work of absorbing solar energy and converting it to electrical energy (see video explaining solar cells).
These are components which monitor and regulate the flow of current to and from solar batteries to prevent overcharging or leaking. Solar power systems with batteries invariably have a charge controller for this purpose. Note: most residential solar systems are grid-tied, not off-grid solar systems.
A solar inverter converts direct current (DC) produced by solar cells into alternating current (AC) for electrical appliances. Inverters may be grid tie or off- grid depending on the solar utility.
Some solar systems, especially larger sizes or those used off the grid, come with battery backup systems for emergency or prolonged backup. Solar batteries store the extra energy produced by the solar modules and discharge it when the batteries are switched on for use.
The mounting equipment for a solar power system is a very important component. It fixes and holds the entire solar panel array on the roof of a house or any other suitable location to receive the sun’s rays. See solar roofing for more.
All the components of a solar system come together and function harmoniously to produce solar power. Incident solar energy is absorbed by the solar PV cells in the solar panels, which convert them into electrical energy. This electrical energy (DC) is converted to AC by the solar inverter. The charge controller acts as a valve to maintain current flow to and from batteries, and mounting racks keep the solar panels on your roof.