How Do Solar Panels Store Energy?

Although the ever-mysterious Mother Nature often appears to be ‘red in tooth and claw’, it is also exceedingly generous in terms of the numerous bounties it confers on human beings. The motley of natural phenomena can well be fully unfathomable but what humans are supposed to do is to discover its hidden secrets and rein in its wild forces to our benefit. Green energy is one of these forces which man has been utilizing multifariously since times immemorial. It is only due to the advancement in science and the use of modern technology that we have discovered more efficient ways of using it profusely for our benefit. Often known as ‘renewable energy’, Green energy is produced by means of various natural sources such as sunlight, rain, wind, tides, plants, algae, and geothermal heat. Solar is unanimously considered to be the most efficient and the cheapest source of energy. 

Curious minds may wonder how energy is stored in solar panels and then transformed into electricity. The answer is, solar panels do not store energy. They just transform solar energy into electricity which can be either used right away or stored in rechargeable batteries for more convenient use later. 

Solar panels are made of silicon, an element which comes in different cell structures. Single cell silicon is used in monocrystalline solar panels while the silicon with more cells is used in the making of polycrystalline or thin film amorphous solar panels. Monocrystalline solar panels are manufactured in the silicon wafer formats which are more efficient than polycrystalline solar cells which are made from melted silicon crystals that are then set up in the form of a panel. Different types of solar panels vary in size, shape, material, performance, and price. Polycrystalline solar panels are cost-effective and the most commonly used solar panels in the United States. 

The electrons in the silicon atom play a vital role in transforming solar energy into electricity. When exposed to sunlight, electrons in silicon atoms do not just vibrate like in many other atoms of the Periodic Table. Electron vibration just produces static energy. On the contrary, electrons in a silicon crystal get up and move around when stimulated by sunlight. As a result, electrical current is produced which is stored in the form of DC (Direct Current) energy in rechargeable batteries. This energy is then converted into AC (Alternate Current) energy with the help of an inverter which comes as a separate device or is already integrated into some rechargeable batteries. This inverter is responsible for converting the DC energy stored in the batteries into AC which can be used for running our home appliances and machines. The process of converting solar energy into electricity is called the photovoltaic effect carried through photovoltaic cells. The electricity thus produced helps power a home or an office in the evening when there is no sunlight. On the other hand, thermal energy is produced in the form of heat and is used to provide hot water for home and industry use.