Ever wondered how a solar power system works? In order to understand these systems better, it helps to learn about the different parts they are made up of. Once you see how all these components work together, you will recognize the benefits of owning such a system for your home or business.
There are four main components to a solar power system. These include:
- A solar panel (the collection point)
- A DC junction box (the transport of the electric current)
- An inverter (the conversion of that current into useable electricity)
- And a battery (storage of the electricity)
Let’s look at each of these aspects of a solar power system more closely.
The solar panel
As most of us know, the solar panel is where it all begins. Panels are exposed to direct sunlight so that maximum solar exposure is reached. When the sun beats down on the panels, these panels collect what’s known as photons. But how does this translate into useable power?
There are multiple cells in a single solar panel. These cells are designed to transform photons into electrons. These moving photons must be transformed into DC power (direct current power). We are now moving closer to having a form of energy we can actually use. But first, another component is needed to turn our harvested sunlight into an electric current.
The DC junction box
This component of a solar power system can be seen as a collector of DC power. A DC cable runs between the solar panels and the DC junction box, transporting a current created by the moving photons and electrons. This direct current must be converted into AC power (alternate current power). AC power is a form of power that can then be stored or used to power a building. When DC power has entered the junction box, it pushes this current out to the next step of the process.
This is where the main conversion in a solar power system takes place. An inverter transforms DC power into AC power. An alternate current is much the same as grid electricity that is manufactured by Eskom. The difference here is that this energy was not produced by a massive power station down the road. We also know that this power did not require tons of coal to be burnt up so that electricity could be generated.
No. It’s all natural energy that’s been repurposed into the same form of electricity we are all familiar with. And this is all done by a little device called the inverter. This device is connected between the DC junction box and the power storage device—which brings us to the next crucial component.
The final stage of a solar power system is the storage device that collects all this electricity. The battery is an essential component because if all this power isn’t stored up for later use, it will simply go to waste. As home owners, we tend to use way more power during the night—at a time when there is no sunlight. Therefore, the battery serves as a means to build up this energy and provide it as you need.
We find the battery between the inverter and the home itself. Most solar power systems are installed to accommodate the battery within the building. From here, the user can monitor how much power is being used. The user can also gauge whether or not there is enough power to last for a period where the panels will not be exposed to the sun.
One last component
There is actually one more component in a solar power system: YOUR BUILDING. The electricity is now useable. Your battery is connected to your home or business and allows you to power your electric devices free of charge. That’s right. No one owns the sun, and harvesting solar energy is completely free. You don’t even need a license or a special permit to use a resource that belongs to everyone.
Solar power system summary
We know now that four essential components make up a conventional solar power system.
- The first is the solar panel which collects photons.
- The photons move rapidly and create electrons which flow through a DC junction box and into the inverter.
- The inverter transforms the direct current into an alternate current, which is then collected and stored in the battery.
It’s an ingenious system that is becoming more and more accessible to all South Africans. So… when are you getting yours?