How Do Solar Panels Work? 

how do solar panels work

Now that we’re moving away from carbon and aiming for net-zero targets, we are often asked how do solar panels work. It’s easy to understand. Solar panels capture the sun’s energy and transform it into usable electricity for your household. Comprised mostly of photovoltaic cells and glass, these panels efficiently convert abundant sunlight into electrical power.

It’s become more of a hot topic since gas and electricity prices started to spike in 2021. Solar panels in Ireland have many benefits, offering homeowners and businesses the chance to harness the power of the sun.

While solar technology is readily accessible and fairly affordable, it’s only recently that consumers have been waking up to the appeal of PV systems. The government is also taking note, aiming to produce 80% of Ireland’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

Companies have also been getting in on the action. Power Capital Renewable Energy secured more than €100 million in European investment at the start of 2023 to fund solar projects across Ireland. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg, with a further €140 million expected to be added to the fund.

If you want to reap the benefits of this technology, you need to appreciate that asking the question “How do solar panels work?” can be complex. Along with ready access to direct sunlight, you’ll need efficient equipment and an installation that’s designed to meet your requirements. Ready to learn more? Our guide explains everything you need to know about panels, how they work, and why they’re worth it.

Solar Power Explained 

Solar panels harvest the energy of the sun, turning it into electricity you can use to power your home. They are typically made of photovoltaic cells and glass, which convert readily available sunlight into electricity.

They are a cost-effective choice for homeowners. However, commercial PV systems are also becoming increasingly popular, offering businesses a more affordable way to power their operations.

The applications of solar power are endless. As well as being suitable to support thermal heating requirements, they generate electricity to power everyday appliances, lighting arrays, security systems, and anything electrical that is installed on the demand side of any client’s fuse board.

How do solar panels work to generate electricity? 

They are typically fitted to a roof before being connected to something called an inverter. This in turn is connected to batteries that store any electricity generated should the house load be fully satisfied with excess left to store. If a panel array is large enough, it can produce sufficient electricity to meet domestic demands at most times during the day.

As soon as sunlight reaches the surface of a panel, a direct current (DC) of electricity is generated. However, everyday appliances like fridges, televisions, and EV chargers require alternating current (AC). So, how do solar panels work if they’re producing the wrong current? This is where inverters come in.

Inverters come in a few main varieties, although hybrid inverters and string inverters are the most common. Some systems also make use of micro-inverters, with these tiny components fitted to every panel. However, they’re not the most practical choice if you’re thinking about using them in Ireland.

How do inverters work?

Once your panels have produced a direct current, it travels to a solar inverter, turning it into an alternating current. Inverters are relatively smaller and are usually installed in unused loft spaces. A PV system only supplies current to fuse board circuits as and when it’s needed. This means you’re only using as much electricity as you need.

The cost-saving benefits are obvious, but you can also divert additional electricity to battery storage. Alternatively, if you have a hot water diverter installed, you can use it to power your central heating systems. Are solar panels worth it? If you need more convincing that PV systems make a sound investment, consider that you can sell any surplus energy back to the grid.

Selling Electricity to the National Grid

If you’ve invested in solar panels in Cork or solar panels in Limerick, you may find that your system is producing more energy (excess energy or excess electricity) than you need. Thanks to the Micro-generation Support Scheme (MSS), you can make a small profit from any electricity you generate that you’re not using.

Although rates began low and vary between utility suppliers they are now all following an upward trend as they compete for our export business, it’s a great way of seeing a quicker return on your investment. How does this work in practice? Imagine your panels are producing 4,000W, but your domestic demands are only 2500W to power appliances. Let’s say that another 500W is being diverted to a hot water diverter or battery storage. Even then, you’ve still got a surplus of 1,000W that can be sold back to the National Grid (power grid) at about 20 cents per unit.

However, to unlock this revenue stream, you’ll need to remain connected to the main grid after having your solar panels installed. Most homeowners choose to remain connected, even after investing in an array that can comfortably deliver their electricity requirements.

Ireland Introduces 0% VAT on Solar Panel Technology 

In April 2023, the government announced a new 0% VAT initiative for the supply and installation of PV systems. The rules came into effect on 1 May 2023, although they only apply to private properties. However, for residential customers, the savings are significant. Someone who might have spent €9,000 on Solar panels in Dublin will now only be spending around €8,000. As well as the immediate savings, it shortens the payback period of installations.

How do solar panels work when it’s cloudy? 

how do solar panels work on cloudy days?

If you’re thinking about solar panels in Waterford or elsewhere in the country, this is a fair question. Despite what you may think of our weather conditions, the Irish climate won’t stop you from making the most of solar power. Ireland receives between 1,100 and 1,600 hours of sunshine annually. During the summer months, those in the southeast of the country enjoy as many as seven hours of sunshine, every day. Unsurprisingly, solar panels work better on bright, clear days. However, they can still generate electricity reliably on cloudy or rainy days. However, to get the most out of your system, you’ll need to know how to clean solar panels. If your home is near a lot of trees, keep an eye on foliage and other debris that might accumulate on your panels. Generally speaking, rain and wind will remove these, but there might be times when you have to gently brush them away.

Now and again, you’ll need to carry out more intensive cleaning. If you’re using a hose to clean more stubborn debris, make sure you’re only using a low-pressure setting. For best results, stick to warm water and a soft cloth. Just be careful not to apply too much pressure to the surface of your panels. Even a minor scratch can impair its performance and render it inefficient.

Thinking About Solar Panel Installation? 

With energy costs showing no signs of coming down, there’s never been a better time to invest in solar installation. Thanks to the introduction of the 0% VAT on solar panels, PV panels are more affordable than ever. What’s more, the Micro-generation Support Scheme means you can unlock a small income from any extra energy you’re generating. Ready to embrace the benefits of solar energy?

At Wizer Energy, we’ve been providing solar electricity to residential and commercial customers for years nationwide. Do you have more questions about do solar panels work? Perhaps you want to discuss installing a Zappi charger in Ireland. Get in touch with our solar panel installers via the online contact form today or give us a call at +353 83 080 0855.

Author Bio

Martin Desmond

Martin is the Managing Director of Wizer Energy, with 30 years of experience in commercial and industrial electrical work. He has won awards in the commercial wiring arena and went on to study and train as an electrical engineer, preparing a PhD study in the area of Future Smart Microgrids. Since the late 1990s, Martin has had a keen interest in green and renewable energy, now utilised by working in the solar panel industry. After a life-changing injury from a fall at a height in 2007, Martin overcame it with a voltage generator embedded within his body. Being a qualified electrician since the 90’s, an electrical engineer since 2012, and utilising electricity generated within his own body, it’s hard to get more electrically qualified!

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Wizer Energy Ltd is a reliable, industry-leading solar panel provider in Ireland with a wealth of experience. 

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