How Solar Panels Work

Unlocking the Power of Sunlight

Solar panels, the radiant heroes of renewable energy, work their magic by harnessing sunlight and converting it into electricity. These sleek, eco-friendly wonders silently absorb the sun’s rays, delivering clean power to your home while shrinking your carbon footprint. They’re akin to miniature power plants perched on your rooftop, illuminating the world with a greener, brighter future, one photon at a time.

Let’s delve into the magic behind their operation:

1. Sunlight Absorption: Solar panels are crafted from specialised materials designed to capture sunlight.

2. Photon Excitement: When sunlight touches the panel, it contains minuscule energy packets called photons, which energise the electrons within the material.

3. Electron-Hole Pairs: This energisation gives birth to charged pairs: electrons (negatively charged) and holes (positively charged).

4. Charge Separation: Within the panel, an electric field emerges, splitting electrons and holes apart, ensuring they don’t reunite immediately.

5. Electric Current Generation: This separation induces an electric potential, driving electrons to flow in a particular direction, thus generating an electric current.

6. Collection and Wiring: Metal plates on the panel’s surfaces gather these electrons, allowing them to flow through wires.

7. Conversion to Usable Voltage: The generated electricity usually takes the form of direct current (DC), which an inverter converts into alternating current (AC) for household consumption.

8. Integration into Electrical System: The converted electricity powers your appliances, lighting, and gadgets. Excess energy can be fed back to the grid or stored in batteries for later use.

The importance of orientation

South-facing solar panels maximise energy yield. East or west-facing panels also perform well, offering energy generation throughout the day. North-facing panels, however, receive minimal direct sunlight, making them the least favourable choice for solar panels.

Angle is also important

As a rule of thumb, you should adjust your panel angle by adding 15 degrees in winter and subtracting 15 degrees in summer from your latitude. In Scotland, latitude ranges from 55 to 60 degrees (Borders to Shetland). Thus, optimal panel angles in summer range from 40 to 45 degrees, while in winter, they should be adjusted to 70 to 75 degrees.


Solar panels are typically installed on rooftops or sunlit areas. Their efficiency relies on various factors, including orientation and angles. Ongoing advancements continually enhance their effectiveness and affordability, paving the way for sustainable electricity generation. It may be time to embrace the power of the sun and join the solar revolution!