You may be asking yourselves how does solar power work? Well, solar panels capture the sun’s ultraviolet rays and generate a DC (Direct Current), before being converted to an AC (Alternating Current) in the solar inverter. The way solar energy works is pretty clever, but you’d be surprised to learn that the technology to make solar panels hasn’t changed much in the last 50 years or so. Thankfully, the demand for consumers to learn how solar energy works and wanting to install the systems in their homes has significantly decreased the cost of solar PV cells.

how do solar panels work in australia

Rays of sunlight (photons) hit the solar panel cells, causing a reaction inside the cells.

The reaction produces a direct current of electricity (DC).

The solar power flows in a circuit through the solar inverter where it is converted to an alternating current of electricity (AC) so that it can be safely used around the house as well as sold back the electricity retailers.

What are solar cells

    • “The most important part of solar panels, are the silicon solar cells.

The silicon that the solar cells are made from carries millions of tiny atoms that have charged electrons. The most common design of solar panels today uses two different types of silicon. This is to create negatively and positively charged atoms.

To create a negative charge, the silicon is combined with boron, and to create a positive charge, the silicon is combined with phosphorus.

Solar Cell Silicon Atom Structure - How solar panels work
Silicon atom found in the solar cells

This combination of different solar cells creates more electrons in the positively charged silicon and fewer electrons in the negatively charged silicon. The positively charged silicon cells are sandwiched with the negatively charged silicon cells.

This unique configuration enables a reaction that produces electricity when the silicon cells are exposed to sunlight.

Solar panel production and manufacturing

    • “The solar boom has injected billions of dollars into research to improve international solar production.”
How solar panels work and how solar panels are made

Solar cells are carefully placed in a series of rows. Individual cells are connected using a thin conductive strip. This strip is woven over and under each silicon cell so that every cell in the solar panel is connected and creates an electrical circuit.

The solar cells are then covered with a heavy duty piece of glass and framed using an aluminium frame. On the back of every solar panel are two leads. These leads are used to connect individual solar panels together to form an array of solar panels which are connected to the solar inverter.

Generating Electricity from solar panels

    • Particles of light that travel from the sun every second of the day are called photons
    • Photons take approximately 7 seconds to get from the sun to your roof
    • Photons from the sun cause a reaction and the magic of solar power generation begins
electron leaving silicon qatom - How solar panels work
1) Electron leaving a silicon atom, creating a gap

1. The photons from the sun hit the solar cells – They loosen some of the electrons which surround the atoms in the silicon solar cells. The negatively charged electrons separate from their atoms in the silicon cells.

electron joining silicon atom - How solar panels work
2) Electron closing the gap in left in the silicon atom

2. Loose electrons now migrate through the electrical current to an available electron gap in the silicon cells. This reaction happens as long the sun hits the solar panels.

Electron cycle in silicon solar cells - How solar panels work
3) Electron cycle in solar cells creates solar power

3. Throughout the day, this process is repeated
and the electrons flow in one direction constantly leaving atoms and filling the gaps with different atoms.

This flow of electrons creates an electrical current, or how we like to call it, Solar Power.

End Result = Clean Solar Energy

    • The simple process has been in operation for close to 50 years now.
    • What has changed is the affordability
Darryn Van Hout

By Darryn Van Hout

I took an interest in the Australian energy sector close to ten years ago and since then have monitored the trends, technologies and direction of the Australian Energy Market. I was drawn to the Australian solar market in 2008 and since then have worked heavily in the field. I am partnered with national and international solar energy companies, from manufacturers of solar panel and inverter technology, online software developers that introduce tools to quote, monitor and manage solar power systems and media organisations who like myself, closely monitor the solar and renewable energy sector. You can find and follow me and my work on , facebook and Twitter.


Want the scientific explanation to solar power?

We’ve aimed to simplify our explanation of solar power generation process, however for those of you who are technically minded and have a sound understanding of science or power generation, please follow the link below:

Read the scientific explanation here

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