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How do solar panels work?

These days solar panels seem to be everywhere - on residential homes, on commercial properties, covering fields and even on the International Space Station. They're one of the most promising green technologies out there and promise clean energy from a source that doesn't look like it's running out anytime soon - the sun.

But just how do solar panels work to generate electricity?

Each individual solar panel is actually made up of lots of smaller elements which are known as photovoltaic cells - this just means that they turn light from the sun into electricity. Lots of photovoltaic cells linked together create what we know as a solar panel.

At their most basic, solar panels allow particles of light, called photons, to knock electrons free from their atoms, and this process generates a flow of electricity. 

The photovoltaic cells do this by creating an electrical field (like a magnetic field). A cell is made up of two pieces of a semi-conductive material (usually silicon), one of which has a positive charge and the other negative.

The electrical field allows electrons to be pushed free of their atoms when hit by a photon of sunlight, then conductive plates around the photovoltaic cells can collect the newly freed electrons and transport them along wires - just like any other type of electricity.

Unlike fossil fuels, which release toxic gases into the environment when they burn, there are no yucky side-effects from the process of creating energy using solar power. It's a brilliant way to create electricity without doing damage to the world around us - and it can have some pretty substantial financial benefits, too.

Not only is it a cheap and readily available source of energy when harnessed efficiently, but for some individuals and businesses with solar panels, it's even possible to make money. If the solar panels on a building make more energy than the building uses, it's possible to sell the energy back to the national grid! 

For more information on how solar panels could benefit your home or business, get in touch with us today.