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The Workings of Solar Energy

How Solar Works

Solar energy is a powerful and abundant renewable resource harnessed directly from our sun. It plays an integral role in a sustainable future, offering an alternative to fossil fuels that helps reduce our carbon footprint. Switching to solar can also help homes and businesses achieve energy independence and combat rising utility costs. 

Before committing to this major transition, however, you may understandably have questions about what solar energy actually is and how a solar system works. Below, we review how solar energy is captured, converted, and distributed.

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A Step-By-Step Guide

  • What Is Solar Energy?

    Solar energy describes the radiation emitted by the sun, which is harnessed using a range of evolving technologies, including the photovoltaic solar panels used by SunPower by Sun Solar. The sun theoretically sends enough energy to power countless homes and businesses, and the energy is clean and renewable. That is why many have turned to solar as a means of combatting climate change.

  • How Solar Panels Capture Solar Energy
    Photovoltaic solar panels are made up of a semiconductive material, such as polycrystalline or monocrystalline silicon. They operate on the principle of the photovoltaic effect. When sunlight strikes the cells, it energizes the electrons present in the semiconductor material. This process creates an electric field across the cells, causing electricity to flow. The greater the intensity of the sunlight, the greater the flow of electricity. This is why solar panels must be placed and configured in optimal positions to best capture the available sunlight on a given property. In many cases, solar panels will be placed on roofs, though they can in some circumstances be placed on the ground or mounted as a carport.
  • How Solar Inverters Convert “DC” to “AC”
    Inverters play a crucial role in the utilization of solar energy within homes and businesses. They function to convert the direct current (DC) produced by solar panels into alternating current (AC), which is the standard used by all commercial appliances. In other words, without an inverter, you would have a wealth of solar energy but be unable to use any of it. An inverter accomplishes the conversion through a process known as switching. By rapidly flipping the DC electricity back and forth, the inverter causes the current to change direction, “or alternate.” The resulting AC electricity is then ready to be used by everything from kitchen appliances to industrial machinery. It is important to note that the inverter's efficiency in this conversion process significantly impacts the amount of usable power generated from solar energy systems.
  • How Electrical Panels Distribute Solar Electricity
    Electrical panels, also known as circuit breakers or breaker boxes, play a pivotal role in the distribution of solar electricity within a residential or commercial building. Once the inverter has converted the direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC), the electrical panel steps in as the heart of the electrical system, directing this electricity to different circuits within the building. Each circuit is protected by a breaker that trips or switches off in case of an overload, preventing potential electrical fires.
    Electrical panels also play a key role in monitoring and measuring energy consumption within a building. Inside the panel, each circuit is fitted with a meter that records the amount of electricity it distributes. This data can provide valuable insights into your energy usage habits, highlighting areas where you could potentially reduce consumption and save even more on energy costs.
  • What Is Net Metering, and How Does It Work for Solar Customers in California?

    In the case of a solar-powered system, any excess electricity generated that is not used immediately can be sent back to the local grid through the electrical panel. This process is known as net metering. It involves a special meter that can spin both ways, recording the electricity your home draws from and supplies to the grid.

    • This allows solar customers to receive credits for excess electricity they generate and feed back into the grid. These credits can offset future electricity bills when solar production is lower than consumption.
    • Conversely, should your solar system be unable to supply sufficient power at night or on an especially cloudy day, you will be able to instead draw power from the grid, which is then credited against the electricity you have already diverted to it over time.

    At the end of each billing cycle, the energy utility company calculates the “net” energy used by subtracting the energy you supplied to the grid from the energy you consumed. If you supplied more energy than you consumed, you might receive credit or a financial return, though California’s newer “3.0” net metering rules incentivize you to rely on a battery storage solution versus drawing power from the local grid.

  • The Role of Solar Battery Storage Systems and How They Work

    Solar battery systems play an increasingly crucial role in harnessing and optimizing the use of solar energy, particularly in California, where net metering rules make it more beneficial to draw on your own stored power versus getting grid power. These systems work by storing excess energy produced by the solar panels during peak sunlight hours for use during nighttime, cloudy days, or during power outages, providing a continuous and reliable power supply without having to draw from the local grid.

    The process starts when the solar panels generate direct current (DC) electricity, which then gets converted into alternating current (AC) by the inverter. If the energy produced exceeds the demand in the building, rather than sending this excess power back to the grid (as in net metering), it gets directed to the solar battery for storage. The inverter changes the AC electricity back to DC to be stored in the battery, as most solar batteries require DC input.
    When solar production is low, or during a power outage, the system will utilize stored power in the battery to avoid interruptions to energy supply. The DC electricity in the battery is converted back to AC by the inverter to be used in the building's electrical appliances.

  • How Does Solar Energy Work in California?
    Solar panels installed on rooftops or in open areas capture sunlight and convert it into electricity through photovoltaic cells, which produce direct current (DC) electricity. This electricity is then converted into alternating current (AC) by an inverter and used to power homes or businesses.

SunPower by Sun Solar Can Help You Harness the Power of the Sun

SunPower by Sun Solar is a leading provider of comprehensive solar solutions to residential and commercial customers throughout California. We offer state-of-the-art solar panels built with high-efficiency photovoltaic cells, ensuring optimal conversion of sunlight into electricity. SunPower's panels are designed to be durable, reliable, and weather-resistant, providing dependable energy for decades. We are a full-service solar company, meaning we handle everything from solar analysis to design to installation. Our team can also help you install a solar battery solution to best take advantage of California’s net metering rules. Let us help you make the most of solar savings today! 

SunPower by Sun Solar distinguishes itself through a customer-centric approach, ensuring that each client receives personalized attention and a solar solution tailored to their unique needs. From initial consultation to system installation and support, the company prioritizes customer satisfaction, building lasting relationships with those who choose solar energy. Through innovation, reliability, and a commitment to customer satisfaction, SunPower by Sun Solar continues to shape the landscape of sustainable energy.

Flexible financing options, including zero-down options, are available for qualifying customers. Call (661) 535-0795 or contact us online to request a free estimate for solar installation and service in California today!

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