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Solar Panels: Who Invented Them?

Solar panels are a great invention and perhaps the most famous invention made by Edmund Becquerel, a 19-year-old Frenchman, in 1839. While working with a pair of metal electrodes, he discovered the photovoltaic effect, a fundamental scientific principle behind the solar cell. Years later, in 1883, the first working solar panel was created by Charles Fritz, an American inventor. Here, you are going to uncover more about the main components and materials that are essential in making solar panels.

What Are Solar Panels?

Solar panels are made up of either 60 or around 72 silicon cells. Silicon wafers, often known as sand, are used to make most solar panels. Silicon is beneficial to our planet since it is abundant. According to LG (Lucky Goldstar), it makes up around 30% of the earth's crust. It is also the second most abundant resource on the planet, after oxygen. When sunlight strikes the silicon cells, electrons inside the silicon are shaken loose and travel around on an atomic level.

An electric current can be constituted by the flow of electrons in one direction. The silicon used in a solar panel is modified to increase the number of electrons available during solar panel manufacturing. Phosphorus and boron are frequently linked to opposing silicon layers. The phosphorus gives a negative charge by adding more available electrons, whereas the boron provides a positive charge by reducing the available electrons.

When sunlight strikes the panel, the ensuing electrical field is poised to provide a movement of electrons to the cell junction. You may create a significant flow of electrons or DC electricity by connecting a group of such PV cells in circuits within a panel and installing many panels side-by-side. Household electricity, on the other hand, is AC 240 volts. As a result, a small box known as a solar inverter is employed to convert DC to AC to be used instantly by residents and the electricity grid.

Commercial solar panels, in essence, are made up of solar cells. Solar cells are made by slicing crystalline silicon into millimetre-thin wafers. Therefore, these wafers are shaped and polished to become part of a larger solar panel that generates power from light particles (photons). Later, we'll look into the science underlying this.

The Elements That Make Up Solar Panels

The following pieces are assembled throughout the manufacturing process of solar panels:

  • Encapsulant material
  • EVA film
  • Silicon cells
  • Back sheet
  • Aluminium frame
  • Tempered glass
  • Back sheet
  • Junction box including 12v wires

Each component has been tweaked and enhanced over time to increase efficiency, longevity, and lower production costs of solar panels.

Silicon solar cells

The photovoltaic effect is used by silicon solar cells to turn sunlight into electricity. Silicon cells connect with the glass wafer sheet to create an electric charge when soldered in a matrix-like pattern between the glass panels.

Metal frame

The metal frame of a solar panel is beneficial for a variety of reasons, including protecting the solar panel from bad weather and other potentially harmful events and assisting in mounting it at the proper angle.

Sheet of glass

The glass casing sheet in a solar panel usually is around six to seven millimetres thick, and despite its thinness, it protects the silicon solar cells within. A conventional solar panel has a glass enclosure at the front of the panel and the solar cells inside to offer durability and protection to the silicon PV.

The panel contains an insulation casing and a protecting back sheet behind the glass exterior, which helps to reduce heat dissipation or humidity within the panel. The insulation is especially significant because rising temperatures cause efficiency to drop, resulting in decreased solar panel output. As a result, PV makers must go to great efforts to make sure that light is captured without overheating the device.

Standard 12V wire

A 12V wire helps to regulate the quantity of energy delivered into your inverter, ensuring the module's long-term viability and performance.

Bus wire

Silicon solar cells are connected in parallel using bus wires. Bus wires are thick enough to transmit electrical currents and are coated in a light coating of solder for ease of soldering.

What Are The Three Major Solar Panel Types?

The physical structures of monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film solar systems are fundamentally diverse. This results in distinct appearances, efficiency, and costs. To further understand the causes of solar technologies' variances, we'll go over each one individually. Here are the main types of solar panels:

Polycrystalline solar panels

Solar cells manufactured from polycrystalline wafers are cut from slabs of molten silicon. This molten silicon consists of silicon fragments utilised in polycrystalline solar panels to provide cells with a metal flake appearance. Polycrystalline modules absorb less light than a monocrystalline solar panel. This is due to their lighter blue hue, resulting in lower performance.

Polycrystalline solar panels used to be the most popular solar technology at the turn of the century because of their ideal combination of low cost, plus adequate performance. In the last several years, the massive monocrystalline wafer manufacturing investments by silicon wafer vendors have irreversibly changed the silicon solar panel market to monocrystalline.

Monocrystalline solar panels

Solar cells for monocrystalline solar panels are cut from a single silicon ingot manufactured using the Czochralski technique. The solar cell's pure silicon composition enables electrons to travel freely within it, potentially increasing efficiency and performance.

With newer technologies like (Passivated Emitter and Rear Contact) PERC, HJT (Heterojunction Technology), and TOPCon (Tunnel Oxide Passivated Contact), the monocrystalline solar cell sector now has more research and development resources.

It is currently the world's leading solar cell technology in terms of manufacturing volume and efficiency, and we anticipate that economies of scale will keep lowering costs and improving its performance.

Mono solar modules with high efficiency can use high-density module technologies like numerous busbars, reflecting ribbons, and back sheets to boost module efficiencies above 20%.

Thin-film solar panels

Thick sheets of photovoltaic material like (CIGS (Copper Indium Gallium Selenide), CdTe (Cadmium Telluride), or a-Si (Amorphous Silicon) are deposited on glass, plastic, or metal to create thin-film solar panels.

The most popular thin-film solar panel is designed with two glass panes sandwiching a photovoltaic film and can work without frames. When placed on flexible substrates like plastic, the thin-film coating's elasticity allows for flexible solar.

How Solar Panels Are Made

Monocrystalline and polycrystalline silicon solar cells are soldered together and then sealed underneath an anti-reflective glass cover to make solar panels. The photovoltaic effect begins when light strikes the solar cells and generates electricity. The following are the main steps in the construction of a solar panel:

  • Creating the solar cells.
  • Soldering solar cells together

Creating the solar cells

Solar cells are the most essential part of a solar panel. To make silicon ingots, p-type and n-type solar cells are created by mixing crystalline silicon with either gallium or boron. The cells can conduct electricity when phosphorus is introduced to the solution.

After that, the silicon ingot is thinned out and covered with an anti-reflective layer. The cells are then sliced with thin slits to direct energy flow. The chemistry of p-type and n-type silicon cells is what distinguishes them. P-type silicon cells are usually positively charged thanks to a boron layer, while n-type silicon cells are negatively charged due to their phosphorus bases.

Because of how they engage with incoming light, n-type cells are often more efficient than p-type cells. When exposed to high light levels, such as during the summer months, n-type cells degenerate faster than p-type cells.

Soldering solar cells together to form a panel

Metal connectors join each solar cell in a procedure called soldering after the phosphorous gives those silicon wafers their electrical charge. The number of cells soldered together simultaneously is determined by the size of the solar panel constructed. For comparison, 60 cell panels are standard, while 72 cell panels are more common in commercial projects.

Is Solar A Good Choice For A Home Or Business?

Now that you understand what solar panels are composed of, how solar panels are created, and the science around solar panels, we must assess if solar panel adoption is good for you. We know what materials are used to build solar panels and also that they rely on sunshine to generate energy.

Therefore, the first and most important need for installing a solar panel is to have a roof or a space large enough at the chosen location to receive direct sunshine for several hours during the day. Installing solar panels in your backyard full of enormous trees that will shield the panel from the sun is pointless. Find a spot where solar panels may be laid flat and receive as much direct sunlight as possible during the day.

The second factor to examine is the total amount of energy used in your home. The number of people in your home, the devices you use, and how often they are used are all factors that affect your overall energy use. A family of five using air conditioning, for example, is more likely to use more power than a family of three not using air conditioning.

The climate in your area will also impact your capacity to maximise the output current of the solar panels. Your solar panels will not generate as much electricity as those in a very sunny climate if you reside somewhere with regular cloudy days. Depending on the amount of room available in your home for solar panels, it may be a profitable option in the long run.

How To Maintain Your Solar Panel System

A well-built and professionally installed solar system should last for many years. On the other hand, regular maintenance can help ensure that your system is operating safely and efficiently. What are the symptoms that your solar system needs a tune-up?

A significant increase in your electricity bill, an orange or red light on the inverter during daytime hours, or dirty or obstructed panels are all signals that your solar output is being reduced and that your system would benefit from services. Here are great ways to maintain your solar panel system:

Check for any dirt and debris

Solar panels do not require frequent cleaning, especially in dry and dusty regions. Any dust will be easily washed away by the occasional rain, and snow melts faster on the solar panels than on the rest of your roof. As such, it's a good idea to check the panels in a few months to ensure no dirt, snow, or leaves are left on them.

When there is, a little hose rinsing will sort out the problem. Make sure you're not cleaning the panels from the roof. Consider purchasing a roof rake if there is significant snow or leaves on the roof. The most vital thing to avoid is scratching or damaging the glass in any way, as this will lower the amount of light that reaches the solar cells.

As a result, any form of abrasive cleanser should be avoided while selecting solar panel cleaning products. Detergent cleansers can be problematic as well since they could leave streaks or smudges that are difficult to spot. These can also reduce the amount of light that gets through.

Any greasy residue or other filth that has made its way onto the solar glass can be removed using rubbing alcohol diluted in water. If you are going to clean your solar panels, you must employ a soft cloth or a squeegee.

Monitor the sun and shade

Solar panels must be exposed to the sun for several hours to retain maximum efficiency. They will be positioned in an area that receives the most amount of sunlight. On the other hand, trees can grow and vary their sun and shade patterns over time.

A new building on the nearby property could also impact the amount of sunlight reaching your installation. As a result, it's critical to check that your panels are still positioned with the best potential solar orientation throughout their lifetime.

Inspect the panels after severe weather

Broken panels can occur due to a severe storm, tornado, or hurricane. Broken glass will hurt your solar panel system's performance. Checking the visual appearances of the panel or monitoring their functionality via online monitoring means you can quickly discover faults with the system.

Fortunately, homeowners' insurance protects solar panels in the event of extreme weather. Contact your installer, who will guide you through the process of repairing or replacing your solar panels.

Always check for roof and rack penetrations

Racking usually guarantees that the solar panel system is appropriately installed on the roof. The bolt penetrations help support the solar panels' weight while also ensuring structural integrity. These systems have been thoroughly tested to ensure their endurance and quality. If you find any leaks, notify your installer immediately to get things fixed. These problems are frequently covered by a warranty; do not try to fix them alone!

Examine energy consumption

Because your net metering agreement with your local utility firm will show you the amount of energy you're selling back to the power grid, you may not feel the need to examine your energy consumption. The downside of only relying on their figures is that you aren't physically assessing the energy production of your panels. Adding an electricity monitor is the most straightforward approach to ensure that your whole system runs well.

Various manufacturers make innovations that allow you to monitor your energy usage. A basic display on inverters usually shows your current power output and also some daily or cumulative data. More advanced solar inverters can even convert your kilowatt-hours to pounds of (CO2) carbon dioxide saved. This shows you a visual representation of how much you're reducing your carbon footprint.

If you enjoy using applications, be assured that several monitoring systems will offer you access to remote data, allowing you to check on the status of your panels at any time using your phone. Specialised data-logging devices that can be linked to your inverter can perform a variety of information-gathering and analytic functions.

These devices can either do the tasks themselves or transfer the data to your computer, using the software to generate helpful charts and logs. Although the most advanced levels of data tracking are not required for managing your house's solar installation, many new solar panel owners are attracted by monitoring their systems' performance.

What Kind Of Solar Panel Do You Require?

The application determines the sort of solar panel you need in your installation. Monocrystalline solar panels are commonly used on residential and business rooftops, where it is most critical to maximise the energy output in a limited space due to their higher efficiency.

This post has likely solved any of your solar panel-related questions. However, should you have any additional queries, it's recommended to contact a solar panel specialist or firm who can assist you in determining your solar installation or maintenance requirements.