Humans have used the sun's thermal energy for thousands of years to heat water, but it's only relatively recently we've had the ability to directly convert sunlight to electricity. Solar electric cells (sometimes called "photovoltaic," or "PV") are constructed using high-quality silicon and trace elements that create an electrical junction that produces direct current electricity when exposed to sunlight. Add conductive materials to gather the electricity, a glass front, an aluminum frame, wiring, and various sealants to these cells and we have a solar electric module!
For the large majority of our systems, each solar electric module is connected to a microinverter that convert the DC electricity from the modules to standard 240-volt AC electricity.
As electricity is generated by your solar electric system, it's first used in your home or business as needed. If you are producing more electricity than you are currently using, that excess can be sent to the utility grid for a credit . At night or when it's cloudy, you'll use electricity from the grid.
Some customers choose to install energy storage devices, such as batteries. These systems store any excess energy from the solar, rather than sending energy to the grid. This energy can be used when it's cloudy, or at night.
Want to learn more about the physics of how solar electric modules produce electricity? Check out the infographic below, courtesy of Save On Energy and the Solar Energy Industries Association.