We've all felt the power and strength of the sun's energy, especially in summer months. The ability to harness that energy was first realised as long ago as 1839, yet it would take another 100 years before the first solar panel was available for industrial use. If you've ever wondered how solar works, it all comes down to what's known as the photovoltaic effect.


At the heart of every solar system is the photovoltaic effect, a scientific phenomenon that occurs at an ultra-microscopic level and involves particles of light known as photons knocking electrons out of atoms. Electrons are tiny positive charges that are attached to atoms and when moved they create a positive flow of energy better known as electricity.


The panels that soak up the sun's energy on a solar system are made up of multiple photovoltaic cells, created by sandwiching together two slices of semi-conducting material. In order for photovoltaic cells to work, they need to establish an electric field, achieved when each slice of the cell is given a positive or negative charge, which creates an electric field at the junction between the two layers of the cell.

Sunlight knocks electrons free and as they're pushed out of the junction, that movement is turned into usable electricity by metal conductive plates, collecting the electrons on the side of the cells and transferring them to wires giving you the electricity you use every day. So, the more sunlight your panels receive, the more electrons that can be pushed off their atoms, meaning more electron flow and in turn more electricity for your home. When the solar panels convert the sun's energy into electricity, it's produced in direct current (DC) form. The DC current then passes through an inverter that converts this solar electricity into AC power. The AC power is then either sent to your existing meter box and becomes available to run your household appliances, or is sent to charge your battery, or be sent back to the grid, depending on how your solar system is set-up.