How Do Residential Solar Panels Work And Generate Electricity?

Raj Singh
July 21, 2023

Many Irish homeowners are curious about how residential solar panels work to generate electricity. It's a fact that these devices can transform sunlight into a sustainable energy source, powering homes in an environmentally-friendly way.

As we explore the inner workings of solar panels, from absorption of sunlight to current creation, you'll gain clear and practical insights into this renewable energy solution. Ready to learn? Let’s power up your knowledge!

Key Takeaways

  • Solar panels work by harnessing the sun's energy through photovoltaic cells, which convert sunlight into electricity.
  • There are two main types of solar panels: Solar Photovoltaics (Solar PV) and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP).
  • Solar PV panels directly convert sunlight into electricity through the photoelectric effect, while CSP panels use mirrors or lenses to concentrate sunlight onto a small area and produce heat that drives turbines to generate electricity.
  • The generated electricity can be stored in batteries for later use or redirected back to the power grid, reducing reliance on traditional power sources.

Types of Solar Panels

There are two main types of solar panels: Solar Photovoltaics (Solar PV) and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP).

Solar Photovoltaics (Solar PV)

Solar Photovoltaics, commonly known as Solar PV, are incredibly useful for homeowners. These specialized panels convert sunlight directly into electricity. Each solar PV module consists of photovoltaic cells made from semi-conductive material, typically silicon.

When light hits these cells, it knocks electrons loose and allows them to flow freely creating an electrical imbalance needed for power generation. This process is often referred to as the photoelectric effect.

Imagine having this system on your roof! It would not only cut down your energy bills but also reduce carbon emissions significantly promoting a sustainable environment at home. A grid connection ensures the excess electricity produced gets redirected back to the power grid or stored for later use in a battery system — so nothing goes to waste.

Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)

Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) is another type of solar panel technology that harnesses the sun's energy to generate electricity. Unlike photovoltaic panels, CSP systems use mirrors or lenses to concentrate sunlight onto a small area, often heating up a liquid such as water or oil.

The heat produced is then used to drive turbines and generate electricity. This makes CSP particularly useful in large-scale power plants where a significant amount of electricity needs to be generated.

Additionally, CSP has the advantage of being able to store excess heat for use during periods when sunlight is not available, ensuring a consistent supply of electricity even at night or on cloudy days.

How Solar PV Panels Work

Solar PV panels work by utilizing the photoelectric effect to generate direct current and convert sunlight into electrical charges.

Photoelectric effect

Solar PV panels work by utilizing a phenomenon called the photoelectric effect. This process involves the conversion of sunlight into electricity through the interaction between light and certain materials in the solar panels.

When photons from sunlight hit the photovoltaic cells, they transfer their energy to electrons within the cells, causing them to become excited and move around. The movement of these energized electrons creates an electric current that can be captured and used as electricity.

This photoelectric effect is what allows solar panels to generate electricity from sunlight, making them an efficient and sustainable source of renewable energy for residential homes.

Generation of direct current

Solar panels generate electricity through a process called the photoelectric effect. When sunlight hits the solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, it excites the electrons in the cells, causing them to flow and create an electric current.

This current is direct current (DC), which is then used to power electrical devices or stored in batteries for later use. The conversion of sunlight into DC electricity is one of the key functions of residential solar panels, allowing homeowners to harness renewable energy and reduce their reliance on traditional power sources.

Generating Electricity with Solar Panels

Solar panels generate electricity by absorbing sunlight and converting it into electrical charges. These charges are then moved to create a current, which is converted from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) using inverters for household use.

Absorption of sunlight

Solar panels work by absorbing sunlight to generate electricity. The photovoltaic cells in the panels convert the sun's energy into electrical charges. These charges are then moved through the panel to create a current.

This process allows solar panels to harness the power of sunlight and provide a renewable source of electricity for your home or business.

Energy conversion to electrical charges

Solar panels have the incredible ability to convert energy from sunlight into electrical charges. This process begins when the panels absorb sunlight, which is a clean and renewable energy source.

Inside the solar panel, photovoltaic cells are responsible for this conversion. These cells contain layers of semi-conductive material that sandwich together to create an electric field.

When light particles, called photons, strike these cells, they energize the electrons within them, causing them to break free and create an electrical current. This current can then be used as direct current (DC) electricity or converted by inverters into alternating current (AC) power for use in homes and businesses.

Movement of charges to create current

Solar panels work by converting the energy from sunlight into electricity through a process called the movement of charges. Inside solar panels, there are small cells made of silicon that absorb the sun's energy.

When sunlight hits these cells, it excites the electrons within them, causing them to move and create an electric current. This flow of electric charges is then captured and directed out of the solar panel as direct current (DC) electricity.

The DC electricity can then be converted into alternating current (AC) power using an inverter, making it compatible with household appliances and ready for use in your home.


In conclusion, residential solar panels work by harnessing the sun's energy through photovoltaic cells, which convert sunlight into electricity. These panels generate direct current (DC) electricity when exposed to light.

The generated electricity can then be converted into alternating current (AC) power using inverters and used to power homes and businesses. Solar panels are a reliable and renewable source of energy that help reduce reliance on traditional power grids while also reducing carbon emissions.

Installing solar panels not only benefits homeowners in terms of energy efficiency but also allows for potential savings through net metering programs and grid connections. Take the first step towards energy independence and a greener future by contacting NuSolas Energy, a leading solar panel installation company in Ireland.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do residential solar panels work?

Residential solar panels work by converting sunlight into electricity through the use of photovoltaic cells. These cells are made up of semiconductor materials that absorb photons from the sun, creating an electric current.

What happens to the excess electricity that residential solar panels produce?

When a residential solar panel system generates more electricity than is being used in the home, the excess energy can be fed back into the grid. This process is known as net metering and allows homeowners to earn credits for the surplus power they produce.

Do residential solar panels work on cloudy days?

While solar panels are most efficient in direct sunlight, they can still generate electricity on cloudy days. The amount of electricity produced may be reduced, but modern solar panel technology has improved efficiency even in less-than-optimal conditions.

Are there any maintenance requirements for residential solar panels?

Residential solar panels generally require minimal maintenance. It is recommended to clean them periodically to remove debris and dirt that could reduce their efficiency. Additionally, regular inspections and monitoring of performance can help identify any issues early on for timely repairs or replacements if needed.

How many solar panels does it take to power a house?

The number of solar panels needed to power a house can vary greatly, but on average, a typical home may need around 20 to 25 panels. This depends on factors such as the household's energy consumption, the panel's wattage, and the amount of sunlight the location receives.

How long do solar panels last?

Solar panels are designed to be durable and long-lasting. Most manufacturers guarantee their panels for 25 to 30 years, but the panels can continue to produce electricity beyond this period, albeit at a slightly reduced efficiency.

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*FYI, parts of this blog post were drafted by artificial technlogy. But rest assured, it's been thoroughly researched, edited, reviewed and me & my team.
About Author
Raj Singh

A seasoned professional in the solar industry, Raj Singh is dedicated to illuminating Ireland with the power of the sun. His passion for renewable energy and commitment to sustainability shine through his work in the solar industry.