How Does Solar Power Work?
Solar power works by converting light energy from the sun into electricity. This electricity can then be used for self consumption in your home, charging a battery or exported to the electricity grid when it’s not needed. This is done by installing solar PV panels on your roof or suitable surface which generate DC (Direct Current) electricity. This is then fed into a solar inverter which converts the DC electricity from your solar PV panels into AC (Alternating Current) electricity that is what we use daily.
1. Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic (PV) cells. When sunlight hits your solar panels, the solar PV cells absorb the sunlight’s energy rays and DC electricity is produced through the Photovoltaic Effect. The electricity produced by these panels is called Direct Current (DC) electricity, and which is not suitable to be used within your home by your appliances. Instead, the DC electricity is directed to your solar inverter, DC coupled battery (or micro inverter, depending on how the system is set up).
2. Your inverter then converts the DC electricity into Alternating Current (230 volt AC) electricity, which can then be used in your home or business. From here, the AC electricity is directed to your electrical switchboard.
3. The electrical switchboard then allows your usable AC electricity to be sent to all the appliances within your home. Your electrical switchboard will ensure that your solar energy created will be used first to power your home, additional energy from the grid will only be used when your solar production is not enough.
4. All households with solar systems fitted are required to have a bi-directional utility meter, which will be installed by your electricity retailer if your current meter is not suitable. A bi-directional meter can track all the power that is drawn to the house, but also track the amount of solar energy that is exported back to the electricity grid. This is called net-metering.
5. All unused solar electricity is sent back to the electricity grid. Exporting solar power back to the grid may earn you a credit off your electricity bill, this is called a feed-in tariff. Your electricity bills will then take into account the electricity you purchase from the grid, plus and credits for the electricity that has been generated by your solar power system that has not been used.
With solar power, you don’t need to turn it on in the morning or off at night – the system will do this automatically for you. The system will switch between solar power and the electricity grid automatically, as your solar system will determine when is best to do so. This based on the amount of energy being produced and consumed in your home. A quality solar system requires very little ongoing maintenance, that means you’ll hardly know it’s there, except for the money you will be saving!
Your solar inverter (usually installed in your garage or in an easily accessible spot), can provide you with a lot of information such as the amount of electricity being produced at any particular time, how much it has generated that day or in total since it was installed. Most quality inverters feature Wi-Fi connectivity and include easy online monitoring.