What are solar panels used for?

Solar panels are the most important part of any photovoltaic (PV) solar system. Here's a step-by-step guide to what they're used for:

  1. The sun constantly releases tiny packets of energy called photons. The PV solar panels capture just tiny fraction of those photons to convert into electricity.

  2. Solar panels are typically arranged on a roof or in a backyard – anywhere with uninterrupted sunlight. The more sunlight a panel can get the more power it can produce.

  3. The solar panels are made up of silicon. When the photons hit the silicon, that causes electrons to move and to create an electric current.

  4. This electric current is called "direct current," or DC, electricity. DC is typically used to power small items, like battery-powered flash lights and the like. Homes and electric grids are powered using alternating current, or AC, electricity because it travels better and with fewer costs.

  5. The solar panel's DC current gets sent to an inverter. The inverter might be a large central box that all the panels feed into, or it might be a small microinverter responsible for converting just one solar panel. Either way, the DC current gets switched over to AC.

  6. Now the electricity created by the panels is ready to power the home. Or, if the homeowner can take advantage of net metering, the home's excess energy to be fed into the electrical grid.

The amount of power a panel produces depends mostly on its manufacturer and its age. Once the panels create electrical energy though, it can be used for anything – powering an electric car, heating or cooling a house, charging video games – you name it. And SunPower's panels are the solar power industry's most efficient, so homeowners can squeeze a lot more energy out of each panel.