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How Do Solar Panels Work?

Simply put:

Solar panels utilize the Sun’s energy to generate electricity.

 

More specifically:

Photons from sunlight are absorbed into a network of solar cells where electrons are used to create a complete electrical circuit. Since energy is absorbed from the Sun, the electricity generated from solar panels are renewable and sustainable.

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What Are Solar Panels Made Of?

The most common solar panels, known as Photovoltaic solar panels (PV), consist of an array of solar cells. These solar cells are made of a silicon material - similar to the materials used in semiconductors for computer chips.

How Do Solar Panels Generate Electricity?

After a solar cell absorbs sunlight, the PV solar panel system generates direct current (DC) electricity. All DC means is that electrons flow in one direction, uninterrupted. Because the electrical standards in the United States call for alternating current (AC), a solar inverter is needed.

So, what is a solar inverter and why is it important?

Solar inverters play the important role of creating useable AC electricity from the DC electricity generated from your solar panels. In addition to this, a solar inverter assists in solar power system safety by providing ground fault protection as well as tracking system stats and usage.

Alright, let’s take every component of a solar power system and combine them to see how an entire solar panel system works.

How Does a Solar Panel System Work?

All technicalities aside, a solar panel system’s energy flow is straightforward. 

Your rooftop solar panels absorb sunlight, that sunlight is turned into DC electricity, the direct current is 

sent down into your solar inverter to be changed into AC electricity, and finally, that AC 

current is used to power your home. That’s solar energy in a nutshell - simple, clean, and efficient.

If you’re considering going solar, you must be asking by now, “is solar energy really that simple?”

 - Well, yes and no.

Let’s explain:

Yes, the functionality of a solar panel system is simple, but when it comes to choosing the right panels for your home, there’s a lot of options out there - it can be a bit overwhelming. There are different types of solar panels to choose from and just as many reputable solar panel manufacturers.

Types of Solar Panels

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As solar energy becomes a staple commodity in California, it's easy to forget that there are different types of solar panels that use different technologies and materials to generate electricity. 

Generally, you can split solar panel technology into 3 subgroups:

  • traditional solar panels
  • thin film solar cells
  • new solar panel technologies

Traditional Solar Panels

Traditional solar panels are what you’ll most likely see on residential roofs. These solar panels consist of monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicon solar cells.

Comparison of solar cells: poly-Si (left) and mono-Si (right)

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Monocrystalline panels (Mono-SI) are made up of the purest type of silicon solar cell. Monocrystalline panels are usually darker in color and look more uniform than other traditional solar panels. The purity of the silicon used in monocrystalline solar panels makes them one of the most efficient solar panels on the market today.

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Polycrystalline solar panels are easily identified by their speckled blue-ish tones. These panels are made by melting down raw silicon which is a much faster and cheaper process than the process used for manufacturing monocrystalline solar panels. Don’t be mislead however, although these polycrystalline silicon solar panels are a more economical option than monocrystalline panels, they are still highly efficient and can be a great choice for certain situations.

Thin Film Solar Panels

Thin film solar panels are self explanatory. They consist of thin layers of photovoltaic materials laid out on glass, plastic or metal backings. These thin film solar cells range in thickness from a few nanometers to tens of micrometers (yeah, that’s small). In comparison, traditional silicon solar panels can be as thick as 200 micrometers. The difference may seem miniscule, but thin film solar cells are much more flexible and much lighter in weight. Here are a few types of thin film solar cells.

Thin Film Solar Cells

Thin film solar cells (TFSC) can actually be a more affordable option than monocrystalline solar cells because thin film is very easy to produce. Less material is needed to make a thin film solar panel than a traditional panel and thin films can also be produced in greater quantities. Although thin film solar cells are flexible, they also tend to be very large and may not be the most suitable option for residential solar installations.

New Solar Panel Technology

Solar panel technology is always reaching new milestones. Some of the most recent breakthroughs are biohybrid solar cells and new solar panel manufacturers.

Biohybrid Solar Cells

Biohybrid cells are still in the research phase but they’re a fascinating new development. The idea behind biohybrid cells it to mimic the natural photosynthesis process of plants. These cells are similar to traditional silicon solar cells but the addition of chemical reactions can potentially make these biohybrid cells up to 1000x more efficient than traditional cells. Again, these cells are still in development and are not currently in use in residential solar installations.

New Solar Panel Manufacturers

As solar panels become more popular, new manufacturers are entering the industry everyday, designing and developing more competitive and efficient solar panels. For instance, Panasonic, a household name in consumer electronics has been very successfully in developing its own line of solar panels.

Solar Financing

Don’t let the initial investment required for a solar panel installation get in the way of your energy efficiency goals. In California, there are tons of financing and rebate options for you to take advantage of to make your transition into renewable solar energy affordable and easy. As a homeowner, you can finance your solar investment through a solar lease, a conventional loan, or a Property Assessed Clean Energy Program (PACE Program).

Did you know your solar panels are eligible for a 30% tax credit?

The Federal Government has extended the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit which is good news for anyone considering an investment in solar panels. All taxpayers are eligible for a 30% tax credit for solar power systems placed in service by 12/31/2019.

Solar Lease

Did you know you can go solar for $0 down with a solar lease? Also known as a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), a solar lease saves you from having to pay any upfront costs for solar panels, installation, and other equipment. Instead of paying for solar panels, you simply pay a fixed monthly amount for the electricity generated by your solar panels. If you’re looking for total peace of mind, you’re in luck. Most reputable solar lease programs will include maintenance and repairs, system monitoring, insurance, and a roof penetration warranty.

Solar Energy Loans

Solar panel loans are similar to home improvement loans in that they are a conventional bank loan that allows you to pay for your solar panels by fixed monthly payments with competitive interest. Your primary lender would be the best option to get more information about your specific financial situation.

Keep in mind:

There is a very important difference between a solar panel loan and a regular home improvement loan. A solar panel loan allows you to leverage debt to own an asset that generates value for your home as well as generating electricity to minimize your electrical payments.

PACE Program

Property Assessed Clean Energy financing programs allow homeowners to invest in renewable solar power with little to no upfront costs. PACE can offer residential homeowners the freedom to cover up to 100% of their expenses. PACE can help you amortize your repayment period to up to 20 years, making sure your monthly payments are as low as possible.

Who can take advantage of PACE programs?

PACE is only available to homeowners in certain cities and counties that have decided to opt in for the program. Luckily, in California, most cities have offered to support PACE and you can find out if your city offers PACE financing for your solar panels here.

Solar Panel Manufacturers

At Semper Solaris, we pride ourself in offering the finest solar installation services on the finest solar products. That being said, here is a list of our top solar panel manufacturers.

Panasonic

As one of America’s most trusted brands and a household name for most things electronic, it’s no wonder Panasonic makes our list of best solar panel manufacturers. Panasonic solar panels are long-lasting, and with a 25 year manufacturer warranty, you can rest assured your Panasonic solar panels will work for you for years to come. Panasonic’s HIT® Photovoltaic Module (solar panel) are a perfect example of high quality monocrystalline solar panels. They claim the world’s highest conversion efficiency and are backed by 40 years of development by Panasonic’s top research teams.

Panasonic is also making strides in making our world a cleaner place to live. Panasonic uses a unique eco-friendly packaging system to transport its solar panels to you home, minimizing cardboard waste and giving you a little bit more pride in your renewable energy decision.

SolarWorld

SolarWorld's Sunmodule® solar panels are produced with the highest standard of quality, performance and durability in mind. SolarWorld leads the industry in solar technology advancements, continually push the limits of sustainable, usable energy. SolarWorld’s Sunmodule® panels take every technical detail into consideration. Solar cells are carefully spaced to allow greater solar absorption and better heat management. SolarWorld also holds many patented technologies that make SolarWorld’s solar panels unique, efficient and of the highest quality of residential rooftop solar panels on the market today.

American Made Solar Panels

If you’re looking for 100% USA made solar panels, you have the right to choose so here. Going solar American style is what Semper Solaris does best. A lot of global brands will claim to be “designed” in America, but most of the production is shipped out to who knows where. Freedom to choose American Made Solar PanelsWhat we do know is that with Semper, you have the freedom to choose American made solar panels if that’s what you’re looking for. We’ve teamed up with Panasonic to offer you one of the only 100% American made solar panels you can find in California. Panasonic solar panels are proudly manufactured in Buffalo, New York, and their efforts are helping push America towards true renewable energy independence. Why is adopting renewable energy so important for America? Not only is the American solar industry creating jobs, improving our economy, and reducing electrical costs, it’s also protecting our environment. We have some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world and reducing our carbon footprint is a step towards protecting the natural beauty of this country that we love. As our country grows, so will our need to consume more electricity. Investing in renewable solar energy is an easy way to ensure you are protected from increasing electrical bills as well as taking part in protecting our environment from pollution and waste.

 

Why is adopting renewable energy so important for America?

Not only is the American solar industry creating jobs, improving our economy, and reducing electrical costs, it’s also protecting our environment. We have some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world and reducing our carbon footprint is a step towards protecting the natural beauty of this country that we love.

As our country grows, so will our need to consume more electricity. Investing in renewable solar energy is an easy way to ensure you are protected from increasing electrical bills as well as taking part in protecting our environment from pollution and waste.

Panasonic is also making strides in making our world a cleaner place to live. Panasonic uses a unique eco-friendly packaging system to transport its solar panels to you home, minimizing cardboard waste and giving you a little bit more pride in your renewable energy decision.

Solar Panel Maintenance

There’s not a lot of moving parts on a solar panel system, and maintenance is generally not needed. However, you can never rule out the unexpected and even California gets a hail storm every once in a while. Whether damage from debris or a shorted circuit, our team at Semper Solaris can repair your solar panels.

For preventative solar panel maintenance, we recommend checking your solar panels for dust and debris a few times per year. If your solar panels are in a hard to reach location, or you do not feel comfortable climbing up on top of your roof, please call a licensed solar panel installation expert to conduct your routine cleaning and maintenance.

Semper Solaris Freedom to Choose American Solar PanelsPanasonic HIT Photovoltaic ModuleSolarWorld Real Value

Solar Panels

Here in the Southwestern United States, we're blessed with warm sunny weather year round. But with constant heat comes constantly rising energy bills. If you're relying on an electrical company for  all your energy needs, that warm weather that we all know and love can become a curse. Don't let that happen - go solar!

 

At Semper Solaris, we take pride in informing our customers of the best solar panel options specific to their needs. From the second you make the call to meet with a Semper Solaris solar representative to the final touches of your rooftop solar panel installation, you’ll have peace of mind in knowing that your best interests are taken care of.

 

Solar panels are a fairly new technology. With new tech comes a whole list of solar related questions. If you’re considering going solar, our Semper Solaris team is ready to answer any questions you may have about the panels you’re getting and the solar installation process.

 

Click the buttons above to see a basic walkthrough of the most common questions regarding types of solar panels, solar manufacturers, solar installation, maintenance and financing.