An Elecric Cicuit Where Electrons Are Free To Flow Solar Power Basics

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Solar Power Basics

Solar energy takes advantage of the photoelectric effect, also known by the term photovoltaic. This effect is caused by the interaction between photons of light and valence electrons on the metal surface. To understand how this works, it helps to have a basic understanding of the Bohr model of the atom. In the Bohr model, each atom has a number of orbital radii at which an electron can exist. These radii differ from planetary orbits in that they are not arbitrary and cannot exist anywhere. In fact, each orbital is associated with a specific energy level and an electron can only exist in those specific energy levels. In order to move out of the nearest orbit to another, the electron must absorb exactly the energy difference between the two.

Electrons have a ground state, which is as close as they can get to the nucleus of the atom they are bound to. When a metal is exposed to light, certain wavelengths move electrons into an excited state, which is further away from the atom. If light of high enough energy hits the metal, it can cause electrons to break free from the atoms and become unbound. This is the basis of solar energy. When a circuit is built on the back of a thin wafer of metalloid, the liberated electrons are captured by the wiring and can be used to power electrical devices.

Solar energy creates direct current, which means that the flow of electricity is a straight forward path. Alternating current, in contrast, actually changes direction of motion several times per second. This change allows AC to be transmitted more efficiently over long distances, which is why it is being used in our home appliances. Items not connected to the household electric grid, such as laptops, flashlights, cell phones, and cars, still run on direct current, because DC is easy to transfer into chemical potential energy, or as it is more commonly known, in batteries.

Since solar energy generates direct current, it’s ideal for powering things like boats or recreational vehicles that have a large draw and aren’t connected to your home. But to power your lights or your air conditioning unit, electricity must be run through a solar inverter, which converts DC to AC. This happens with little loss of transfer efficiency. This means that if you have a battery storage system and a connection to home power, the circuit must go to the battery before running into the inverter. Otherwise the power you don’t use immediately is run through the inverter multiple times, causing a huge drop in system efficiency.

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