how-does-solar-work | June 27, 2024

Everyone talks about solar energy and all its benefits as a sustainable energy source, the potential to save you money in the long term and reduced carbon footprint due to it being a form of clean energy. But when the sun generously beams down on our planet and solar panels installed on your home’s roof, what actually happens? As much as we wish it worked like magic, that’s not the case. There is a whole scientific process behind solar energy generation that can be heavy, technical and complicated to understand. So, Future West Solar is here to help you make sense of it in layman's terms.

The sun’s rays and your solar panels work in tandem to power your home in BC with electricity. So, before getting into the steps of what takes place to generate solar energy, let’s go through the components of your solar panel system.

Understanding the Components of Your Solar Panel System

A solar panel operation uses the following primary parts: photovoltaic (PV) cells, inverters, the PV distribution board, and the main/sub-distribution board box, which connects to the electrical grid.

  1. Photovoltaic Cells: Photovoltaic cells are the star behind capturing sunlight and converting it to solar energy. Usually, these cells are made up of silicon. When sunlight strikes these cells, they produce an electric current known as the photovoltaic (PV) effect.

  2. Inverters: When sunlight hits PV cells, it is in the form of a direct current. However, our homes and the electrical grid are only compatible with alternating current forms of energy, as it is safe and can be efficiently transmitted across long distances. So, the main task of the inverter is to convert the solar energy to make it usable.

  3. PV Distribution Board Box (PVDB box): The PVDB box houses a solar miniature circuit breaker and a residual current circuit breaker before being connected to the main or sub-DB box of your home. You can imagine the PVDB box as a switchboard, which connects the inverter to the distribution board box.

  4. Main/ Sub-Distribution Board Box: Your PVDB box is connected to your main/sub DB box, which helps to Power your house with solar electricity and sell excess electricity generated to the grid via a process known as Net Metering

Now that you have the full breakdown of your solar system's components, we will explain how everything works together to allow your home to run on sunshine. If you’re wondering whether solar is for you, you can take this quiz to find out.

The process that enables your home to run on sunshine!

The process that enables your home to run on sunshine!

How Do Solar Panels Work To Power Your Home In BC?

  1. Sunlight & Solar Panels: The solar or PV cells present in every solar panel do most of the heavy lifting. Through the PV effect (as mentioned above), your solar panels produce a one-directional electrical current, called direct current (DC) electricity.

  2. Solar Panel Inverters: Since DC electricity has unidirectional flow, is high-voltage, and loses power over long-distance transmission, it needs to be converted to alternating current, which can flow forwards and backwards, to power your home and send back to the grid, if needed.

    This is where inverters come into play, converting the DC electricity from your solar panels to usable AC electricity. You could have one central inverter or a microinverter on the back of each panel. Future West Solar uses micro-inverters because even if one panel goes out, the entire array stays alive, keeping solar energy production going.

  3. Electrical Panels: After the inverter converts the energy to AC electricity, it is sent to your home’s electrical panel (also known as a breaker). This panel sends electricity to all your power outlets, so when you need to turn on the lights or plug devices in, there is electricity available for use.

  4. Your Power Meter: The power meter tracks and records both the solar energy generated by solar panels and surplus energy sent back into the grid. It holds helpful data on energy produced, credited, or withdrawn, which can help you receive credits through BC’s net metering program.

  5. The Power Grid: Most homes have a grid-tied solar system; this means that energy generated in excess can be stored in a public utility grid, and if you need to tap into that energy, it can flow back to your home, too—extremely helpful for colder months. It’s because of this power grid that you can earn electric bill credits from your utility company when you send excess electricity to the grid.

  6. Mobile Controls: The installed power inverters come with a system where customers can monitor their solar system’s permanence and energy production in real time. This will enable you, as a homeowner, to stay in the loop about your system’s efficiency, which adds an extra layer of convenience.

If these concepts of how solar panels truly work have sparked some interest and you feel inspired to get your home running on sunshine— after all, BC does get plenty of it—give us a shout! At Future West Solar, we are passionate about all things solar and making it super simple for you, so reach out to us to learn more or get a quote!

Are you on the verge of committing to solar and have plenty of questions for our team at Future West Solar? We’re proud to service the Okanagan and Fraser Valley regions with our Kelowna and Chilliwack offices; contact us now, and we’ll walk you through any doubts or concerns you may have.