How do solar panels work?

With solar panels adorning rooftops, driveways and even space craft, it comes as no surprise that plenty of Aussies are interested in solar for their homes.

Our 2021 Future Energy Report reveals even more insights about Aussie households. For example, did you know that customers with solar are more optimistic about their ability to manage, and save, on their energy bills than households without it?

With that in mind, if you’re considering solar for your house, you might be curious about exactly how this technology works. Let us break down the ins and outs of converting sunlight to energy.

The basics

Solar panels are made up of units called solar cells AKA ‘photovoltaic cells’. The term ‘photovoltaic’ relates to the production of electricity by substances exposed to light and is a special property that some materials have.

High purity silicon is used to make most solar cells and when carefully manufactured, acts as a semiconductor. The semiconductor properties of silicon can then be used to make solar cells.

“Light is made up of photons,” Mark Kerr, Origin’s Group Manager of Large-Scale Solar and Operations, says.

“When solar cells absorb certain photons from sunlight, electrons within the solar cell can become excited. These excited electrons can then move through the conductors and wires in the solar panel to create electricity that can power your home”.

Heat and light

It’s no secret that Australian summers are famous for being bright and sunny. One issue that often comes with extreme amounts of light is heat – and too much heat can reduce the efficiency of solar panels. So, with spring, autumn and summer being prime times in Australia for high-efficiency solar power production, how can you be sure that your solar panels can weather the conditions?

A well-engineered solar panel, from a trusted supplier, will be designed to operate under Aussie conditions. And, as long as your panel gets enough light, you can feel confident knowing your system will do its job efficiently.

Another question that occasionally pops up, is whether it’s possible for there to be too much light for a solar panel to handle? Of course, some light is reflected away, and often panels contain design elements that capture and re-focus some reflected light, but too much light is rarely an issue for a solar panel. With the exception being if light is “concentrated” on to the solar panel (for example using mirrors) – this can certainly cause problems.

Well-engineered solar panels will be designed to withstand Australian weather conditions

What does the future hold?

It’s clear that solar will be a major ingredient in the energy mix of the future. In 2021 more than a quarter of Australia’s total electricity generation came from renewable sources, and that this was predominantly driven by the small-scale solar sector, which saw a record 378,451 rooftop solar installations.

So, how’s that technology that we know so well going to change?

At Origin, we’re already looking to the future. Until now, solar’s popularity has been driven by electricity savings that can be made during the daytime – but we’re looking towards a future where solar can power your entire home (and car) 24/7.

Batteries open a whole new world by enabling savings when the sun isn’t shining. The last 12 months have seen a shift in battery prices, reducing them for the first time and making the option of battery storage a more economic reality for many Aussie households. Whether this be with a flash new Tesla Powerwall, one of the LG Energy range of batteries or a complete solar, battery and grid managed energy service with Origin’s Virtual Power Plant – Loop – more Origin customers are realising the savings benefits of coupling their solar with batteries.

When we look outside the home, electric vehicles (EVs) also present a unique opportunity for solar solutions. With solar, and home batteries, able to charge the family car and eliminate another household cost – petrol. To effectively manage this energy ecosystem of the future, Origin Loop, has been designed to connect and manage a households end to end energy usage.

Thinking about installing solar at your place? At Origin we’ve installed more than 1.6 million solar panels around Australia and have over 15 years of experience. We’ve worked hard to make a process that’s as seamless as possible. Our expert repairs, warranties and maintenance services will also help give you peace of mind.

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