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How do Solar Panels work?

Solar Panels are now common place on UK roofs. However do we understand how they actually work?

The science behind Solar Panels is actually very simple and has been known for many years with the photovoltaic (the science of producing electricity from a Solar Cell) being discovered by Alexandre Edmond Becquerel in 1839.

The reason that Solar Panels have such a long life span is because the action of converting sunlight into electricity doesn't actually require any moving parts. Therefore no wear and tear takes place. An article was recently released proving this, as the UK's oldest Solar Panel installation was still operating at 95% efficiency after 20 years of operation.

The science in simple terms is that sunlight (photons) forces electrons from the negative layer of silicon in a solar cell to the positive layer and vice versa. If you connect enough solar cells in series you can generate a Direct Current (DC). A Solar Panel is basically a series of solar cells connected together:

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Example of a series of Solar Cells making up a Solar Panel

To generate even more solar power, simply connect a number of Solar Panels in series to create a Solar Array:


Example of a Solar Array on a Smeaton Wood Energy Project

As mentioned above a Solar cell and therefore Solar Cell produces Direct Current (DC), which can't be used by our household compliances or exported to the grid. Therefore your Solar Panel system will require an Inverter. The Inverter's job is to convert the DC into Alternating Current (AC) for use in the property and for exporting to the grid:

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Example of a Domestic Solar Panel Inverter

With all of this equipment in place you can then connect your system to your distribution board so that the generated power can be used in the house and exported to the grid.

However to calculate your Feed in Tariff (FIT) payment, OFGEM require you to install a generation meter. This essentially calculates the amount of power produced by your Solar Panel array. If you believe that your Solar Panels will export a lot of Solar Power you may consider an export meter to benefit from more accurate measurements on your actual Solar Power exports (50% deemed export on all Solar Panel systems up to 30kWp).

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Example Feed in Tariff Generation Meter

If you are interested to learn more please don't hesitate to contact us. Smeaton Wood Energy can help you to find a highly competitive price for your installation as well as help with finance options if required. We also specialise in Biomass Boilers.

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