how do solar panels work?

Learn how energy from the sun becomes clean, green electricity that powers UK homes and businesses. 

Watch the video below to learn the science behind how solar panels use energy from the sun to generate 100% renewable electricity.

How do solar panels work?

Solar panels are made out of photovoltaic cells that convert the sun’s energy into electricity.

Photovoltaic cells are sandwiched between layers of semi-conducting materials such as silicon. Each layer has different electronic properties that energise when hit by photons from sunlight, creating an electric field. This is known as the photoelectric effect – and it’s this that creates the current needed to produce electricity.

Solar panels generate a direct current of electricity. This is then passed through an inverter to convert it into an alternating current, which can be fed into the National Grid or used by the home or business the solar panels are attached to.

What are some of the advantages of solar power?

  • There is 6.14GW of installed solar dotting the rooftops of homes in the UK – that’s double the capacity of Britain's largest fossil fuel power station.

  • Solar panels can be installed in a wide range of places. From larger, countryside solar farms that can support local biodiversity by providing an undisturbed habitat for bees, butterflies and nesting birds, to rooftop panels in city centres that can help combat fuel poverty.

  • Solar panels don’t create any noise pollution while generating electricity. This means that installations aren’t intrusive – whether they’re in crowded urban locations or quiet rural ones.

  • Solar panels are very safe. They're mostly made from silicon sheets, and there's no danger of the photovoltaic cells leaking or emitting any toxins or fumes.

Do solar panels work on cloudy days?

Solar panels react to the visible light spectrum. This means, if it’s light enough to see, there’s enough light for solar panels to start generating electricity. But the stronger the sunlight, the more power solar panels will generate. 

Does it need to be hot for solar panels to work?

Solar panels produce more electricity in summer, which can make it seem like they need warmer weather to work. But this isn’t the case – it’s just that stronger sunlight and warmer temperatures often go hand in hand. In fact, if the temperature gets too hot (or too cold), solar panels become less efficient.

Because we get over 8 hours of sunlight a day all year round and don’t often experience extreme temperatures, the UK is well suited to solar power.


How many solar sites does Good Energy own?

We have six of our own solar farms. We’ve taken care to make sure they benefit the local environment and community, from boosting biodiversity to providing community benefit funds.

We also buy solar-generated electricity through our contracts with independent renewable generators. And, as a Feed-in Tariff administrator, we support well over one hundred thousand households and businesses to receive payments for the power they generate through their own solar panels.,

Read more solar panel FAQs here

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