Solar Energy: How Do Solar Panels Work?

Solar energy is known as the green energy source with the greatest potential for deployment in Singapore. It is even outlined in the Singapore Green Plan 2030 that Singapore aims to deploy 1.5 GWp of solar energy by the year 2025 and 2 GWp by 2030. However, few Singaporeans understand the benefits of solar energy or how it can be used to power homes and businesses. Here’s a look at solar energy and how solar panels work to generate the electricity Singapore requires.

What is Solar Energy?

Solar energy is light energy from the sun converted into electrical energy. It is the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source, and it does not deplete or contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. As a tropical country one degree north of the equator, Singapore receives an abundance of sunlight (an average annual solar irradiance of 1,580 kWh/m2/year), making solar power one of the most easily accessible energy sources here.

Also Read: The Potential of Solar Energy in Singapore

Introduction to Solar PV Systems

PV stands for photovoltaics, which is the effect of light energy being converted into electrical energy. The photovoltaic effect was discovered by French physicist Edmond Becquerel in 1839, when he experimented with a cell made of metal electrodes in a conducting solution. He noticed that when exposed to light, the cell produced more electricity. This discovery led to the development of the technology now used in solar PV systems.

How Do Solar PV Systems Work?

A typical solar energy system consists of solar photovoltaic panels, a solar inverter, a generation meter, cabling and connectors, an energy monitoring system, and an export limiter (if applicable).

Solar panels are composed of many small photovoltaic cells made of semi-conductive materials, usually silicon, and housed in a metal panel frame with a glass casing. When sunlight containing photons (or particles of light) strikes the layer of silicon on the solar panels, electrons are knocked off the silicon atoms, causing electrons to freely drift in the cell. This results in an electric flow, which is also known as direct current (DC) electricity.

The DC electricity is then fed into the inverter in the solar PV system, which converts the electrical flow into alternating current (AC) electricity, which is required by most consumers to power their buildings. The AC electricity is then sent from the inverter to the property’s electrical panel, also known as a breaker box, which distributes the electricity throughout the property. Lights, appliances, and other electrical devices can now be powered by electricity. Any excess electricity not consumed through the breaker box is fed into the grid, which stores it for future use or sale to other property owners.

Solar PV systems do not require sunlight to beam directly on the solar panels to generate electricity. Even on cloudy days, solar panels can generate enough electricity to power your building or home. The average amount of sunlight that Singapore receives on a daily basis is also more than enough to generate the electricity needed; any excess generated will be fed back into the grid and saved for use on other, less sunny days. As a result, property owners do not need to be concerned about losing power on cloudy or rainy days.

Interested to find out more about solar power or how you can install solar PV systems on the roof of your property? As a leading electricity supplier in Singapore, Union Power operates Union Solar to contribute to Singapore’s sustainability goals. Get in touch with us to find out more about solar panel installation options.

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