How Does Solar Power Work: Solar Power for Beginners

People everywhere are actively exploring alternative energy sources like wind and hydroelectricity, driven by a strong desire to reduce carbon emissions and tap into nature’s bounty. Innovators today are setting their sights on harnessing these natural forces in a big way.

Back in 1839, French physicist Edmond Becquerel made a groundbreaking discovery in solar power technology. Through his experiments, he unlocked the secrets of the photovoltaic effect, showing the world how light particles could spark an electrical current.

But it took until 1982 before solar panels, which harvest solar energy, started being produced on a large scale. This renewable energy source is now powering homes and buildings across the country, with many Americans embracing solar energy for a greener future.

Understanding solar power can seem daunting at first, but by talking to people who’ve already made the leap, we’ve gathered the most common questions newcomers have. These inquiries shed light on the essential aspects of solar power, making the concept more accessible to everyone.

Common Questions about Solar Power

How do Solar Panels Work?

Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity, powering devices like gaming consoles, refrigerators, computers, and TVs in homes.

This happens through the photovoltaic effect, where light particles, or photons, hit the solar panels and release electrons from the atoms in the material, creating an electric current.

How do Solar Panels Work within a Solar Power System?

A solar power system consists of four key parts: solar panels, racking, inverters, and batteries or another storage device. The solar panels play the crucial role of capturing photons and transforming them into usable energy for the home.

Solar Panels

Solar panels are made of a tempered glass, non reflective outside layer meant to provide environmental protection. The top of the solar panel has a conductive electrode that typically acts as the cathode (negative electrode). This is followed by a nice thick layer of either n-type or p-type semiconductors. 

N-type solar panels: Have more free electrons than atoms

P-type solar panels: Have less free electrons

The depletion zone sits beneath the top layer, with a layer of opposite-type material on the other side.

At the bottom of the solar panel lies the anode, the positive electrode. The sunlight carries energized photons, which get their energy from the sun’s chemical reactions.

These energetic photons transfer their energy to the semiconductor materials in the solar cells, generating a continuous electron flow. This electron flow is captured by the inverter, converting it into AC electricity for powering homes or businesses.


The solar inverter transforms the DC power from solar panels into AC power for homes and businesses. Panels are connected in series to the inverter, which then turns solar energy into usable power.

Typically, inverters are installed in easily accessible, safe spots like the side of a house, a garage, or a basement for straightforward maintenance.

Energy Storage 

solar battery is an energy storage device installed to take the extra power produced by most solar PV systems during the day and store it for use either at night OR in an outage situation. Most residential battery solutions available right now have a storage capacity of around 9.8 kWh. Depending on the critical loads connected, these can last anywhere from a day to a couple of days if it is sunny outside and recharging can happen. Multiple batteries can also be added to increase the desired battery life and provide longer backup times.

Racking & Rails

Solar panels need a sturdy foundation for mounting. Whether it be a roof, or ground, secure racking is important to keep your solar panels in place during any kind of weather unpredictability. 

Rails get installed on top of the mounting feet to provide a stable and solid base upon which solar panels are installed. 8MSolar uses IronRidge XR rails to provide a stable and robust platform to secure your system to your roof.

How Many Solar Panels do I Need? 

The design and technology of solar panels has been improved upon for years to bring you a long lasting energy generator. Solar panels have a high guaranteed output for the first 25 years of their life. In fact, some solar panels last 40 years after installation with an operating output of around 80%. Read more about how many solar panels you need.

How Long Do Solar Panels Last? 

The design and technology of solar panels has been improved upon for years to bring you a long lasting energy generator. Solar panels have a high guaranteed output for the first 25 years of their life. In fact, some solar panels last 40 years after installation with an operating output of around 80%. 

Our solar panels come with a 25 year 80% guaranteed power output warranty. This is the best warranty currently offered on solar energy production systems. Read more about how long solar panels last.

8MSolar Expert’s Summary

When sunlight strikes your solar panels, they generate Direct Current (DC) electricity. This DC power is then converted by your inverter into Alternating Current (AC), the type of electricity your home uses. The AC power travels from the inverter to your home’s main electrical panel, powering your household devices and appliances.

If your solar system generates more power than your home needs, and if your local utility company permits (as most do in North Carolina), the surplus energy is sent back to the grid. In return, your utility company will give you a credit for this contributed power. Conversely, if your solar system doesn’t produce enough power to meet your home’s demands, like during the night or on cloudy days, your utility will supply the additional energy required.

Contact 8MSolar to learn more

Are Solar Panels Worth it?

The bottom line happens to be “is solar worth it?” The short answer is yes. Solar panels help you save money and utilize an efficient renewable energy resource. Even during the winter months or raining days, solar panels will continue to produce energy because AC power is created from light, not heat. 

Despite high up-front costs , we believe everyone saves by switching to solar power. The amount saved will depend on the size of the system you install. Our records show that the average household can save around $1800 per year when they make the switch. You’ll see your solar panels begin to pay for themselves within 6-8 years. 

If you live in the North Carolina area, find out how 8MSolar can assist you in bringing renewable energy to your home or office. The ample sunlight and lowered cost of solar panels are just a few of the benefits of solar panels in North Carolina . 

We are ready to help you make the transition, get a free quote today! 

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