Solar Panel Basics: A Detailed Guide to Harness Sustainable Energy

SolarJerry Lee

In an era where environmental consciousness and renewable energy sources are at the forefront of global discussions, solar power emerges as a promising solution. At the heart of solar energy systems are solar panels, the building blocks that have the remarkable ability to convert sunlight into electricity through the photovoltaic effect. In this blog, we will delve into the essentials of solar panels, exploring their functionality, installation process, and key considerations for selecting the right system. By the time you're finished with this article, you'll have all the information necessary for starting on your journey towards sustainable energy sources!


What Is a Solar Panel?

A solar panel, also known as a PV panel, is composed of multiple solar cells, which are made up of layers of silicon, phosphorous (providing the negative charge), and boron (providing the positive charge). It is made up to convert sunlight, consisting of energy particles called photons, into usable electricity. The electricity can be used to power households or even commercial buildings, offering a clean and sustainable alternative to traditional energy sources.


How Does a Solar Panel Work?

Solar panels capture the energy from sunlight using a process called the Photovoltaic Effect. When sunlight hits the panel's surface, it causes electrons in the material to break free from their usual positions, creating a direct electric current. This direct current (DC) is then converted into alternating current (AC) through an inverter, making it suitable for powering homes and businesses. The generated electricity can be used immediately or stored in batteries for later use, providing a reliable and sustainable source of energy.

What Constitute a Solar Panel System?

Now that we have known the principle of solar panel generating electricity, it is time to learn what are the key components in a solar panel system that work together to harness and utilize solar energy efficiently:

  • Solar panel array: It serves as the core component, responsible for converting sunlight into usable electricity. These panels, often classified based on their rated power output in watts, generate electricity through the Photovoltaic Effect.
  • Charge controller: To ensure the smooth operation of the system, a charge controller is essential. This device regulates the current flowing from the solar panels, preventing overcharging issues and battery drain. Additionally, acting as a safeguard between the panels and the connected battery or electronic devices, it maintains a stable flow of electricity while protecting the components from potential damage.
  • Inverter: It is integral to transforming the DC (direct current) power generated by solar panels into AC (alternating current) power, which is the standard form of electricity used by most household appliances. Inverters convert the electricity to a usable format, enabling seamless integration with the existing electrical grid or powering various devices directly. In grid-tied systems, inverters also facilitate the process of feeding excess solar electricity back into the grid, allowing homeowners to earn rebates or credits on their utility bills.
  • Battery: It plays a crucial role in any off-grid solar power system. They store the electricity generated by the solar panels, allowing for power usage during periods when sunlight is limited or not available. By providing a reliable storage solution, batteries ensure a continuous supply of electricity and enable the system to meet power demands even at night or on cloudy days.


How to Design and Build Your Own Solar Panel System?

Embarking on the journey to create your very own solar power system involves a series of essential steps. By following these steps diligently, you can construct a customized solar power system tailored to meet your unique energy needs while staying within your desired budget. Let's explore the key stages that will guide you towards the successful realization of your solar energy project.

Step 1: Assessing Your Needs and Options

  • Determine your electricity requirements: Analyze your energy consumption from electricity bills and identify the amount of power you aim to generate through solar.
  • Consider feasibility: Evaluate your budget and available space to ensure a practical and cost-effective solar power system.
  • Select system type: Choose between a grid-tied, off-grid, or hybrid system based on your specific needs.
  • Equipment planning: Browse reliable solar panels, batteries, inverters, charge controllers, and other essential components from trusted brands.

Step 2: Equipment Selection and Budgeting

  • Prioritize warranties: Choose equipment that comes with manufacturer warranties for added reliability and peace of mind.
  • Budget-friendly options: Select solar products that fit your budget without compromising quality or performance.

Step 3: Site Analysis and Assembly

  • Mount Installation: Fix the mounts that will support the solar panels, choosing between roof-ground mounts or flush mounts based on your requirements. Position the panels facing south (or east/west) to maximize sunlight exposure. The mounting structure should have a slight tilt between 18 to 36 degrees.
  • Install the Solar Panels: Securely attach the solar panels to the mounting structure using nuts and bolts, ensuring a sturdy installation.
  • Do Electrical Wiring: Use universal connectors like MC4 to connect the panels in series or parallel, depending on your needs. Series connection increases the voltage to match with the battery bank, while parallel connection maintains voltage consistency. Once the panels are connected, proceed to connect the system to the solar inverter. Lastly, add a battery according to your specific energy needs.

What to Look for When Buying a Solar Panel System?

To ensure a successful solar system, there are several important factors to consider when buying solar panels. Here are some key things to look for:

Match Your Load with the Panel's Power Rating

To determine the appropriate solar panels and batteries for your power needs, calculate the total power consumption of your appliances. Multiply the power rating of each gadget by its running time to obtain the watt-hours (Wh). For instance, if the appliances have a mean wattage of 60W and run for 6 hours a day, the total watt-hours would be 60W x 6 = 360Wh. Considering a 20% energy loss, the effective power to work with becomes 360Wh x 1.2 = 432Wh.

To ensure sufficient energy production, select a solar panel that can absorb enough sunlight to meet your requirements. Assuming 4 hours of direct sunlight exposure, you would need a panel capable of generating 432Wh/4 = 108 watts. Rounding up to the nearest standard wattage, a 120-watt, 12-volt solar panel would be suitable for your power needs.

Consider the Panels' Efficiency

Efficiency refers to the rate of conversion of solar energy into electrical energy. For most solar panels on the market, efficiency rates range from 15% to about 21%. Choosing a panel with higher efficiency means more electricity wattage per square meter, reducing the number of panels required. For exceptional performance, consider the Anker solar panel, which converts up to 23% of sunlight into solar energy, ensuring reliable power even on cloudy days.


Check for the Minimum Warranted Power

Each solar panel comes with a minimum warranted power rating that guarantees its maximum output. Deviations of 5% to 12% in peak wattage may occur due to material quality and clarity. Opt for high-quality brands that maintain a rating below 7% to maximize your panel's power output. A lower percentage deviation minimizes the need for additional panels to meet your energy requirements.

Look for PTC Rating

In the United States, panels entering the market undergo testing under Photovoltaics for Utility Scale Applications (PVUSA) Test Conditions (PTC). Unlike manufacturer-provided standard testing conditions (STC) ratings, PTC ratings are from an unbiased third party. Considering this rating ensures greater reliability and unbiased performance information for your solar panels.

To complete the puzzle, find a reputable dealer that guarantees quality and offers a comprehensive range of solar panels, batteries, and inverters. Choose devices that prioritize long-term reliability, ensuring a sustainable and efficient solar power system.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, we covered the basics of solar panels, including their working principle and installation process. We emphasized the importance of considering factors like efficiency and performance when selecting solar panels. By adopting solar power, you can save costs and contribute to a greener future. Take the leap into solar energy, empower your home or business, and make a positive environmental impact.