You may have already noticed solar panels on rooftops along your usual routes around Houston. Sure, you probably have a basic understanding of what’s going on there—those panels are converting sunlight into electricity—but how? Let’s take a closer look.
How do solar panels work?
Solar panels are modules typically comprised of either 60 or 72 photovoltaic, 0.5V cells. Each cell contains two adjoined, thin wafers of crystalline silicon called ’N-Type’ and ‘P-Type.’
- phosphorous-doped to increase electron count
- net negative charge
- boron-doped to decrease electron count
- net positive charge
Some of the photons in the sunlight landing on the surface of a solar panel will collide with single electrons, forcing them to release from their bond and thus creating both a positively charged ‘free electron,’ and a negatively charged ‘hole.’ This causes an exchange between the silicon wafers, across the electric field at the border between the two. Holes created on the N-Type wafer change location by trading places with adjacent electrons until occupying a space on the P-Type wafer. Free electrons emerging from the P-Type wafer flow to the N-Type wafer, where they are collected by thin, metal ‘fingers’ at the top of the cell, and routed through an external circuit before returning to the P-type wafer through a conductive, aluminum sheet on the bottom of the panel. Generated direct current (DC) is extracted from this external circuit and sent through wires to a PV inverter.
Solar Panel Inverters
What do inverters do?
Inverters are the unsung heroes of solar energy systems. While much focus is understandably on the solar panels, which can be seen from afar, without inverters, we wouldn’t be able to utilize the electric current generated by the panels. Thanks to Nikola Tesla, distributed electricity throughout the world comes into our homes and businesses in the more efficient and safe form of alternating current (AC). Consequently, the appliances drawing current from our electrical outlets are designed to accept AC only. Since solar panels perform only the relatively simple function of converting sunlight into DC power, we rely on inverters to translate that production into the familiar AC power that our modern lives demand. Furthermore, today’s technologically advanced PV inverters are also hubs for the wireless communication required to monitor the health and production of the entire solar energy system.
What types of solar inverters are available?
Today, micro and string inverters are the two most common types applied to solar—whether in small, residential systems, or utility-scale solar farms. The best choice for your home or business will likely be an optimized inverter system in either case. Optimized solar energy systems offer panel-level optimization of a system’s efficiency and consequent production by constantly monitoring and adapting to common sources of production loss, such as shading and distribution of arrays over more than one azimuth. This means that the days of an entire solar energy system’s production taking a nosedive when one of its panels is slightly shaded are behind us. Let’s take a quick look at the differences between the two.
Micro-inverter systems consist of multiple small inverters. The power produced by each panel in these systems is immediately inverted to AC, directly under the panel. The AC is then carried over wires to a combiner box which outputs the cumulative AC for use at your home or business and also contains a hub for panel-level system analysis and wireless internet connectivity.
In a string-inverter system, the DC power produced by many solar panels travels through wires to one large inverter, which inverts all incoming DC to AC and houses the hardware for internet connectivity. Optimization and panel-level monitoring of these systems is made possible by small devices called power optimizers—of which, one will be installed under each solar panel.
Solar Panel Batteries
Unfortunately, we in this region of the U.S. have learned to live with near-constant threats to the functionality of our electric grid. High temperatures and humidity result in record-breaking demands every summer, which often lead to brownouts and outages that can be very disruptive. Severe thunderstorms and hurricanes pose threats of damage to our power lines and transformers from wind, lightning, and flooding. Battery-backup systems offer resilience in the face of these threats. They are also a perfect pairing to a solar energy system because they can be charged by the clean solar power that the system produces, and they can be included in the solar loan often used to purchase the system.
Sunshine Renewable Solutions are certified installers of battery backup systems from many of the most highly regarded battery manufacturers in the world—including Tesla, Sonnen Batterie, and LG Chem. These intelligent devices can sense your electricity-consumption patterns and help you avoid peak demand charges, all while keeping enough power in reserve to get you through the night or the next grid outage. Unlike generators, batteries are low-maintenance, smart appliances. No oil changes necessary, no need for extra gasoline reserves, and they can even be hung on interior walls in an effort to reduce degradation from environmental factors and mitigate any risk of flood damage.
Which battery is best for you?
Because the consumption of each home and business is unique, designing a battery-backup solution requires a thorough assessment of all loads and circuits on site. Sunshine Renewable Solutions are expert in this process, and in delivering custom-fitted solutions to meet the backup requirements of virtually any application, with both backup goals and budget in mind.
Ready to take the next step by contacting a solar panel company in Houston? Sunshine Renewable Solutions provides the best solar panel installation services in Texas. We are an experienced solar panel installation company with locations in Houston, Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, Amarillo, and El Paso TX. Contact us today for a complimentary consultation.