What are Solar Panels?

Solar PV Panels are probably the most recognizable component of a home solar power system. They consist of many PV cells and are typically rectangular in shape and mounted on the roof of your home or a free standing support structure. Solar panels are rated in watts. Normally, this rating represents the maximum power they can generate under ideal conditions. Some of these may be rated for 100 Watts, 210 Watts or other amounts of power output.

Not all solar panels are created equal, so be sure to make note of several pieces of information when comparing solar panels for your energy needs. Some common measurements include:  1) efficiency, 2) rated power at Standard Test Conditions (STC), and 3) rated power per square foot. Be aware of these metrics when comparing solar panels, so that you can make a fair comparison between different panels.

Solar PV panels are made up of multiple PV cells. These are wired together and mounted on a backing with a frame and protective cover. Multiple PV panels can then be arranged together to form a solar array. These can be set up on free-standing frames or on top of roofs or other structures to collect sunlight and generate electricity. The diagram above shows examples of each of these different solar energy items.

There are currently a wide range of manufacturers that produce solar power panels. These can be purchased individually or as entire kits, which include inverters and other key elements that make up a home PV power system. For those who are handy or good at following detailed instructions, there are a number of good resources to help you construct your own PV panels, and quite possibly save a significant amount of money in the process.

Stay tuned for future posts with more information on solar panels and particularly on DIY solar panel projects and resources.



Solar (PV) Cells

Solar PV CellMost people when they think of solar power are probably thinking of solar panels made up of photovoltaic cells (PV cells). These solar cells or PV cells collect the sun’s energy by collecting sunlight and converting it into direct current (DC) electricity or battery power.

Since most home appliances run on alternating current (AC) electricity, an inverter is the solar power component in your home system that converts the DC electricity to AC electricity.

A standard PV cell can be thought of as a thin semiconductor sandwich. They are very fragile and some common sizes are 5″ x 5″ or 6″ x 6″. They are connected together in various configurations to form a grid with a protective cover that makes up a solar panel. These solar panels are then mounted on the rooftop of your home to collect sunlight and turn it into DC electricity.

There are several common types of solar cells used in Photovoltaic (PV) panels. Monocrystalline are created from a single crystal block and are typically higher in efficiency, but they also usually cost a bit more. Polycrystalline cells or Multicrystalline cells are created from a silicon block, which is made up of multiple crystals. These PV cells are slightly lower in efficiency than the Monocrystalline cells, but probably less expensive. Amorphous silicon cells are made from finely powdered silicon. These have a much lower efficiency then the other types of solar cells and are usually not desirable for homes or residential applications because they use much more roof space than either Monocrystalline or Polycrystalline cells.

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