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How Are Solar Panels Made?

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As people grow more conscious of their carbon footprint and energy prices continue to soar, solar panels are becoming more commonplace. They appear on rooftops and in fields, quietly converting sunlight into electricity with no moving parts or emissions. But have you ever paused to wonder how these sleek, glassy sheets are actually made?

The making of solar panels is a blend of science, sustainability and nature. From the mining of quartz sand to the sophisticated engineering processes, the journey from raw materials to the finished product is both complex and remarkable.

Key Takeaways

  • How solar panels work
  • Components used in solar panel production
    • Pholtovaic cells
    • Wafers and silicon crystals
    • Junction boxes and electric cables
    • Anti-reflective coating
    • Ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) film
    • Backing material for support

How Solar Panels Work

Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity through the use of photovoltaic cells. These cells are made up of silicon, a semiconductor material that can harness the energy from particles of light and convert it into an electric current.

Put simply, when sunlight hits the solar panel, it makes the electrons in the silicon atoms flow freely. This flow of electrons creates an electric current.

However, for this flow of electricity to be useful, it needs to be contained and directed, which is where the metal frame comes in, allowing the electrons to escape and travel through metal conductors where it goes on to power our homes, businesses, and more.

If you want to learn more, read our in-depth guide covering how solar panels work.

Components Used in Solar Panel Production

A variety of materials and components are needed to make solar panels.

Photovoltaic Cells

Photovoltaic cells are the key component responsible for converting daylight into electricity in solar panels. Made of silicon semiconductors, these cells harness the photovoltaic effect to generate an electric charge when exposed to sunlight.

The electric current produced by these photovoltaic cells is in the form of direct current (DC), which is then converted into alternating current (AC) for use in homes and buildings.

Collectively, multiple photovoltaic cells make up a solar panel or module.

By harnessing the power of photovoltaic cells, solar panels offer a clean and renewable source of electricity, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and minimising carbon footprint.

Wafers and Silicon Crystals

Photovoltaic cells, the building blocks of solar panels, require the use of wafers made from silicon crystals.

Monocrystalline wafers are cut from cylindrical blocks using a diamond saw, and are known for their efficiency and power output, as the uniform crystal structure allows for better electron flow.

On the other hand, polycrystalline wafers are made by melting and solidifying multiple fragments of silicon. The resulting ingots contain many small crystals, giving them a “grainy” appearance. While polycrystalline wafers are less efficient compared to monocrystalline ones, they are easier and cheaper to produce.

Another type of wafer is made from silicon ribbons, which are manufactured in large quantities and have lower production costs but offer lower efficiency when compared to monocrystalline wafers.

To enhance the efficiency of the wafers, an anti-reflective coating is applied. This coating reduces sunlight reflection, allowing more light to be absorbed by the wafer and converted into electricity.

Junction Boxes and Electric Cables

Junction boxes protect the wiring and stop the electric flow reversing. These boxes are typically made of durable materials, such as plastic or metal, and are designed to house electrical connections and components.

Wiring within a solar panel system can be complex, with multiple connections and cables involved. The junction box acts as a central point where these connections are made securely and safely. It helps to organise the wiring and prevents any loose connections that could lead to electrical faults.

The junction box protects the wiring from corrosion or damage caused by moisture, dust, or debris to ensure the longevity and reliability of the system.

Electric cables are another essential component in solar panel systems. These cables are responsible for carrying the direct current (DC) generated by the solar panels to the solar inverter, which is then converted into alternating current (AC) for use in homes or elsewhere. The cables used in solar panel systems are designed to handle the high voltage and current levels produced by the panels for electricity to pass through smoothly.

Anti-Reflective Coating

This specialised coating is applied to the surface of the panels to increase their sunlight absorption, reduce reflection, and increase power output. This is particularly important in maximising the efficiency of solar panels, as higher absorption leads to more electricity generated from the same amount of sunlight.

Additionally, the anti-reflective coating helps to improve the overall performance of the panels under various lighting conditions. By reducing reflection, the coating ensures that a higher percentage of sunlight is converted into usable electric current, even in cloudy weather.

Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA) Film

As a protective layer, EVA film shields the delicate solar cells from external factors such as moisture, dust, and physical damage. It acts as a barrier, preventing any potential harm to the solar cells that could affect their performance.

But that’s not all – it also bonds the solar cells to the backsheet and the front glass, making sure the solar panel is structurally sound. This adhesive property keeps the components securely in place, even under harsh conditions.

The use of EVA film in solar panel manufacturing offers several benefits:

  • Its transparency allows maximum sunlight penetration to reach the photovoltaic cells, optimising energy absorption
  • It’s flexible, enabling the solar panels to be more resistant to external stresses, such as thermal expansion and contraction
  • It’s resistant to UV radiation, further protecting the solar cells and helping them last longer

Backing Material for Support

One crucial component of solar panel manufacturing is the backing material that provides structural support and protection to the solar cells. This material acts as a sturdy backbone, ensuring the stability and longevity of the panels.

Commonly used backing materials include glass and metal. Glass is a popular choice because of its transparency, which allows maximum sunlight penetration to reach the solar cells. It also offers excellent protection against things like moisture, dust, and physical damage. Glass also provides electrical insulation for the solar cells, preventing any unwanted electrical currents.

Metal is another option for backing material, known for its durability and strength. Metal frames, usually made of aluminium, offer robust support and protection for the solar cells. They can withstand extreme weather conditions, ensuring long-term performance and reliability.

Choosing a durable and weather-resistant backing material is essential for the overall performance of solar panels. A robust backing material provides structural support, allowing the solar cells to function optimally. It also protects the delicate solar cells from environmental elements, ensuring their longevity and efficiency.

Solar Panels From Grant Store

If you’re thinking about upgrading your home with a solar power system, you’ve landed in the right place. Our experts are backed by years of hand-on experience and know-how. We can also help you secure funding through the latest UK solar grants.

So, whether you’re filled with questions about what set up is right, or you already know exactly what you want, we’re the go-to solar power company. Give our teams a call today and together for honest, reliable and obligation-free advice.