Elements of a Solar Power Panel
Photovoltaic cells could be said to be the heart of a solar power system. The process of converting the sun's rays into solar energy is performed by photovoltaic cells. Each panel that you see is actually comprised of several photovoltaic cells which are combined to form a functional array. The more photovoltaic cells are combined in a unit, the more potential solar energy can be generated by a panel.
Functional arrays of photovoltaic cells must be mounted on a surface that provides backing. Most commercial panels consist of aluminum backing, however, with homegrown systems, a variety of options are available, including plate glass. The backing also allows the functional arrays to be repositioned to take maximum advantage of the sun at different times of the day.
The functional arrays are also covered in the front to protect the photovoltaic cells from damage. The fronting is usually made of some sort of glass. Commercial panels have specially designed fronting; however, homemade solar panels often substitute greenhouse glass which is also designed to let in a maximum amount of light while being less expensive than specialized glass.
Diodes direct the energy generated by photovoltaic cells and functional arrays. Without diodes, the energy generated by solar panels would be dispersed randomly. Diodes are usually attached to rows of photovoltaic cells to direct the energy of several cells or of an entire functional array into a single direction. Wiring connects the functional arrays and the diodes together and connects the solar panel to the remainder of the system.
Adhesive and sealant are not associated with the generation of solar energy, but are essential elements of the panel nonetheless. Without adhesive and sealant, the fronting and backing would be unable to perform their tasks of stabilizing the photovoltaic cells and protecting the functional arrays from the elements. Adhesive and sealant also prevent air and moisture from contacting the wiring, which could cause shorts that could destroy the entire panel.
Components of a Solar Power System
While the solar panels make up the heart of a solar power system, panels alone are not sufficient to generate electricity. The panels must be mounted either to your roof or to the ground; mounting equipment and racks perform that task.
Solar panels generate direct current (DC) electricity; however, most domestic electric systems run on alternating current (AC). Therefore, a converter is necessary to transform the direct current electricity generated by your solar power panel into alternating current that your household appliances can actually use. Otherwise, you must purchase expensive DC powered appliances - if you can find them.
You will also need a circuit breaker or a fuse box, along with switches and fuses to maintain a steady flow of power from your solar panels to your home's outlets, to your solar panel system storage battery, or both. Especially if you do not connect your home solar panel electricity system to the local grid, you will need a battery to store any excess energy produced by your system.
On the other hand, it may not be a bad idea to add a generator backup to your solar power system. While your system can continue to output power even when the sun is not shining, reserve energy can only last for a few hours or overnight. During a sustained period of bad weather, if you are not connected to the local grid, you may find yourself without electricity at all
Installation and Maintenance
If you are handy with a hammer and have intermediate or advanced electrician skills, it is possible to install a home solar power system yourself. However, if you have any doubts about your skill level, it's best to leave the installation of a solar power system to the professionals. If you intend to connect your home system to the local power grid, the utility may have special regulations in place that a professional would have a better chance of adhering to all the requirements involved than most do-it-yourselfers.