How Do Solar Panels Work?

Layers of a solar panel
Solar panel systems capture the sun’s energy and convert it to usable electricity. Learn how panels work and how you can use solar energy.

Solar energy is a growing source of energy for residential and commercial properties across the United States. The ever-increasing popularity can be attributed to multiple benefits of solar, namely that they produce no greenhouse gases, are long-lasting, and can grant energy independence. We already rely on the sun for heat and light, and it is not a far next step to use it as a source of electricity as well. The creation of this technology can be attributed to collaboration between the research of many scientists over time. You can learn more about how solar energy came to be used in our blog, The History of Solar Power Energy. If you use or plan to install solar panels for your home or business, understanding solar energy and how solar panels produce it can help give you the fundamentals for using this technology to run your property.

What is Solar Energy?

Solar energy is the solar radiation, or light, and heat emitted by the sun that reaches the surface of Earth. The sun’s solar energy can be harnessed to generate electricity with the proper set-up. Most solar panels are made of photovoltaic (PV) cells, which are the components responsible for the process behind electricity generation. Solar cells have a negatively charged and positively charged layer, which together form an electric field. Thousands of solar cells connect to become the building blocks of a solar panel.

What are Solar Panels Made Of?

Solar panels are sophisticated, interconnected collections of solar cells that work together to create the hardware required to convert the sun’s power into usable energy. Solar panels work alongside inverters, mounting technology, and sometimes solar batteries.

  • Solar Cells: Made of silicon, solar cells are the part of the system that converts the sun’s photons into energy. A collection of solar cells is the building block of a solar panel.
  • Aluminum Frame: Collections of solar cells are housed together in an aluminum frame in order to protect the delicate solar cells. In addition, the frame allows for easy solar panel mounting.
  • Glass Cover: Solar cells are also protected by a class casting sheet, preventing dirt, weather, and other environmental hazards from damaging the solar cells without stopping sunlight.
  • Plastic Layer: A plastic or EVA (“ethylene vinyl acetate”) layer holds the solar cells together within the panel.
  • Junction Box: A connection point for cables where electricity passes, protecting electrical connections.

Solar panels also utilize interconnectors to connect solar panels to the utility grid and specialized silicone glue for bonding.

Types of Solar Panels

There are three main types of solar panels, each with specialized uses.


Monocrystalline panels are made from a large block of silicone cut into silicon wafers. These panels are the most efficient types available and usually appear black.


Polycrystalline panels are created by melting silicon crystals together to create the cell. They differ visually from Monocrystalline panels, appearing blue, and are a more affordable alternative.

Amorphous Silicon

Amorphous silicon solar panels are made to be flexible and bendable before they are attached to glass, plastic, or metal. These panels are highly versatile and lightweight.

How Solar Panels Produce Electricity

How does a collection of silicon solar cells actually produce electricity? Silicon is a semiconductor material; when sunlight photons hit the cells, the semiconductor material absorbs them, and electrons within are energized. Energized and negatively charged electrons are released and are attracted to the positively charged cell layer, moving the electrons and making a charge in the electric field. The charge is a Direct Current (DC) which flows to an inverter, where it is converted into Alternating Current (AC). AC is the electricity type needed to power most appliances and functions in our homes and businesses.

Solar panel technology is a revolutionary approach to energy generation, and understanding how it works helps you learn how you can harness the sun to power your home, housing complex, or business. Holu Hou Energy offers residential and commercial solar panels and solar battery installation. Contact us to be a part of the future of solar energy and cut your bills by going solar.