What Is A Solar Panel Quizlet?

Solar panels, also known as photovoltaic (PV) panels, are devices that convert sunlight into electricity. They are made up of solar cells, which are assembled together into solar modules or solar panels. When sunlight hits the solar cells, it knocks electrons loose from the atoms, allowing the electrons to flow and generate electricity. This process is called the photovoltaic effect.

The history of solar panels dates back to 1839 when French physicist Edmond Becquerel first discovered the photovoltaic effect. In 1883, the first solar cell was built by Charles Fritts who coated selenium with an extremely thin layer of gold to form the junctions. However, these early solar cells were very inefficient at less than 1% efficiency. It wasn’t until 1954 that researchers at Bell Laboratories accidentally discovered silicon solar cells, which were much more efficient. This paved the way for the modern silicon-based solar panels that we have today.

In the 1970s and 1980s, solar technology continued improving with manufacturing techniques that allowed efficient large-scale commercial production of solar modules. Today, solar panels typically range from 15% to 22% efficiency. With government incentives and dropping prices, solar panels are now a mainstream renewable energy technology used worldwide.

Types of Solar Panels

There are three main types of solar panels available for homeowners and businesses:

  • Monocrystalline solar panels – These are made from silicon ingots, which are cylindrical in shape. The manufacturing process results in the highest efficiency panels, typically 15-20%. However, they are more expensive than polycrystalline panels. According to Energysage, monocrystalline panels are the most efficient type of solar panel. [1]
  • Polycrystalline solar panels – These are made from square-shaped silicon fragments melted together, which results in slightly lower efficiency, typically 13-16%. The manufacturing process is simpler and cheaper, so these panels cost less than monocrystalline. According to Aurorasolar, polycrystalline panels have slightly lower efficiency but tend to be more affordable than monocrystalline panels. [2]
  • Thin-film solar panels – These use cadmium telluride (CdTe) instead of silicon to absorb sunlight. They have the lowest efficiency, typically 7-13%, but can be easier to install. Thin film panels work well in low light conditions.

When deciding on a solar panel type, homeowners should consider efficiency, cost, lifespan, and how well each option suits their building, location, and budget.

[1] https://www.energysage.com/solar/types-of-solar-panels/
[2] https://aurorasolar.com/blog/solar-panel-types-guide/

Solar Panel Components

Solar panels are made up of multiple components that work together to absorb sunlight and convert it into usable electricity. The main components of a solar panel are:

Solar cells – Solar cells are made from silicon and are responsible for the photovoltaic effect that generates electricity. When sunlight hits the solar cells, the photons excite the electrons in the silicon and cause them to move, creating an electric current.[1]

Glass covering – Solar panels have a glass covering, usually made from strengthened glass, that protects the fragile solar cells while still allowing sunlight to pass through. The glass also provides structural stability.

Aluminum frame – The aluminum frame provides rigidity and strength to the panel. It protects the edges of the solar cells and allows for easy mounting of the panels.

Junction box – The junction box on the back of the solar panel is the output for the electrical connections. This is where the wiring connects to transfer the electricity from the panel into the electrical system.

Understanding the function of each component helps illustrate how solar panels are engineered to efficiently capture and convert sunlight into clean, renewable electricity.

[1] https://www.energysage.com/solar/what-are-solar-panels-made-of-list-of-solar-pv-materials/

How Solar Panels Work

Solar panels work through a phenomenon called the photovoltaic effect. This involves converting light energy from the sun into electricity using solar cells in a process called photoconversion. When sunlight hits the solar cells, it transfers photon particles of energy into the solar cell’s semiconductor material. This creates positive and negative charge carriers in silicon atoms. As sunlight continues hitting the cell, electrons flow from negative to positive, creating an electrical current.

The photovoltaic effect occurs when photons from sunlight strike the semiconductor material in the solar cell, usually silicon. This causes electrons to be knocked loose from their atoms, allowing them to flow freely. The electrons then move through the cell’s semiconductor material to the layer on the back, which is positively charged. This positive-negative attraction creates an electric field that pulls electrons to the back contact and out of the cell as direct current electricity. This electric current generated is then captured through wiring and conduits for power use or storage in batteries.

In summary, solar panels directly convert sunlight into electricity through the photovoltaic effect. Sunlight strikes the solar cell semiconductor material, freeing electrons which then flow in one direction to produce a usable electric current.

diagram showing how photons from sunlight hit the solar cell material and cause electrons to flow, generating electric current

Source: https://pickmysolar.com/how-solar-panels-work/

Solar Panel Efficiency

Solar panel efficiency refers to how much of the sunlight that hits the panel gets converted into usable electricity. The efficiency is measured as a percentage. The higher the percentage, the more efficient the panel is.

There are several factors that affect solar panel efficiency:

  • Panel technology – Monocrystalline panels are the most efficient at 15-22%. Polycrystalline panels are slightly less efficient at 13-18%, and thin film are the least efficient at 7-13%.
  • Temperature – Solar panels become less efficient as temperature increases. Cooler temperatures allow panels to produce more electricity.
  • Shading – Any shading, even partial shading, greatly reduces solar panel output.
  • Angle to the sun – Pointing panels directly at the sun’s rays maximizes efficiency.
  • Soiling – Dust, dirt, bird droppings, etc. blocking sunlight lowers efficiency.

Regular cleaning and maintenance is important for maintaining peak solar panel efficiency. Efficiency will degrade slowly over time, typically 0.5-1% per year.

Solar Panel Sizing

When determining how many solar panels are needed for a residential or commercial solar system, it is important to calculate the system size based on the location, electricity usage and goals of the property. The key factors in sizing a solar panel system are:

Daily energy use – Calculate the average kWh used per day. This provides an estimate of how much energy the solar panels will need to produce. Online calculators like those from SolarEmpower can help determine energy use.

Sun hours – The number of peak sun hours in the location determines the solar potential. Areas with more annual sun hours require fewer panels to produce the same energy. Resources like the National Renewable Energy Lab’s calculator provide sun hour data.

Panel wattage – The wattage, or power output, of the selected panels impacts sizing. Determine the total watts needed by multiplying the home’s kWh usage by peak sun hours, and divide by the wattage of the panels chosen.

Space available – Consider the physical space for mounting panels, typically the roof size and angle and available ground space. Design the system to maximize production within the space constraints.

Future energy needs – Size the system to allow for estimated increased future energy usage to avoid undersizing the system.

By factoring in these variables, homeowners can properly size their solar panel system to match their energy usage and solar potential. Online solar calculators and sizing tools simplify the process of determining how many panels are required.

Solar Panel Installation

Installing solar panels involves a few key steps and requires safety precautions. The installation process typically includes:

Site evaluation – The installation location is assessed, including the roof structure, shading elements, and orientation to the sun. This helps determine the optimal panel layout.

Permitting – Building permits are obtained from the local jurisdiction, which involves submitting plans and documentation. This ensures the system meets code requirements.

Mounting system installation – Rails and racking are mounted to the roof or ground to secure the panels. Proper anchoring and sealing prevents leaks.

Panel mounting – Modules are mounted and secured to the racks and wired together. Proper spacing is important for airflow and efficiency.

Inverter and electrical connections – The inverter converts DC output to usable AC power. Electrical connections tie into the home’s electrical panel.

Permit inspection – Local inspectors verify proper installation and electrical safety. Once approved, the system can be activated.

Safety gear, training, permits, and inspections are critical. Solar panel installation is complex and best left to qualified professionals.

Solar Panel Maintenance Tips for Optimum Performance

Proper maintenance is crucial for solar panels to operate at peak efficiency and maximize energy production over their lifetime. Here are some best practices for solar panel maintenance:

Regularly clean the panels to remove dirt, dust, bird droppings, pollen, and other debris that can accumulate on the panels and block sunlight. Use a soft brush and mild detergent and water for cleaning. Avoid using abrasive or chemical cleaners that could damage the panels (Energy5).

Inspect electrical connections, cables, and junction boxes for any loose connections, corrosion, weathering or pest damage that needs repair. Check that mounting hardware is secure. Addressing minor issues quickly can prevent bigger problems down the road (Genius Innovation).

Have a professional solar installer inspect the system at least once a year to check system components and identify potential problems before they cause power loss or failure. They can test system performance and efficiency as well (California Solar Guys).

Check for shade issues from growing vegetation or structures and prune or remove obstructions as needed to maximize sun exposure. Even small amounts of shading can disproportionately reduce energy output (Energy5).

Follow all occupational safety procedures when cleaning or maintaining panels, including testing for electrical charge before touching wiring and using proper fall protection on rooftop systems (California Solar Guys).

Solar Panel Costs

The costs of solar panels can be broken down into purchase costs, installation costs, and maintenance costs. The purchase costs include the solar panels themselves as well as any electrical equipment needed like inverters, racking, and wiring.

According to this source, a typical 5kW solar system costs around $11,000-$14,000 before any solar incentives or tax credits. The cost per watt for solar panels ranges from $2.50-$3.50.

Installation costs account for labor, permits, and any additional structural work needed. For a 5kW system, expect to pay around $3,000-$5,000 for a professional installation. Roof-mounted systems tend to cost a bit more than ground-mounted systems.

Over the lifespan of a solar system, which is around 25-30 years, you can expect to pay some costs for maintenance and repairs. However, these costs are relatively minor, estimated around $100 per year on average for a 5kW system according to this source. This covers things like cleaning the panels, replacing any faulty inverters, and checking electrical connections.

Quizlet for Solar Panels

Quizlet is an excellent tool for learning and reviewing key solar panel terminology, components, and facts. Quizlet’s flashcards, learn, test, and match features make it easy to master solar panel knowledge. There are several good solar panel quizlet sets already created that can be used, including:

Joey’s Solar Energy Quizlet Flashcards (https://quizlet.com/168155103/joeys-solar-energy-quizlet-flash-cards/) – covers solar panel basics, components, installation, and more.

Mabel’s Solar Energy Quizlet Flashcards (https://quizlet.com/167565054/mabels-solar-energy-quizlet-flash-cards/) – focuses on solar energy concepts, solar cell function, and related vocabulary.

Creating your own Quizlet flashcards for solar panels allows you to customize the content to your specific learning needs. The various study modes Quizlet provides, like the Q-Chat bot, make it easy to drill the material until it sticks. Quizlet is a great supplement to other solar panel educational materials for reinforcing key facts, figures, and terminology interactively.

Similar Posts