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How Solar Energy Works

Updated: Jun 6, 2019

Understanding how solar power works helps inform consumers, to make the right decisions for their home or business. Most understand that the sun is the first step in understanding how solar works. But, how, exactly does the sun convert this energy to power that can replace traditional fossil fuels? How does solar electricity impact your electric bill?

Photovoltaics (PV), also knows as “Solar PV”, is an electrical system that converts the sun’s light into usable energy. A Solar PV System’s main components include solar panels, an inverter, a meter and more.

STEP 1: The Solar Panel

Solar Cell

The solar cell is the basic component of a solar panel. Sometimes called photovoltaic cells or PV cells, they generate electricity as they absorb sunlight. Solar cells are made of semiconductor materials, the most common of which is crystalline silicon.

Solar Module

A solar module, or PV module, is made of connected solar cells. The total number of cells in a module will vary, as will the module’s effectiveness.

Solar Panel

Because a single solar module can only produce so much electricity, multiple modules are often interconnected to create a larger solar panel: the backbone of a solar PV system.

STEP 2: The Sun

A solar panel works by allowing photons, or particles of light, to knock electrons free from atoms, generating a flow of electricity.

Solar panels collect the sun’s arrays as Direct Current (or, “DC”) electricity.

Solar energy systems produce very high-quality electricity. Solar power reduces the risk of power fluctuations that could damage electronic equipment.


An essential element to a solar pv system, an inverter converts DC electricity harvested from your solar panels and converts it to AC electricity for residential or commercial use.

Direct Current (DC) – This is the form of energy absorbed by solar panels. DC is an electric charge that flows in one constant direction. Solar cells and batteries are DC.

Alternating Current (AC) – This is the form of energy that is created by the inverter. AC is an electric charge that periodically reverses direction. The outlets in your home are AC.

STEP 4: The Meter

Any solar PV system that’s tied to the grid will use a bi-directional meter. This meter is connected to both your solar panel system and the local utility power grid.  

When you use electricity from the grid, you’ll see your meter move forward. But when your solar PV system produces electricity, any excess will go back into the grid and your meter will move backward. This is called “net metering.”

When the solar energy system produces more electricity than is consumed, excess electricity is sent to the utility company. When you consume more power than your solar system produces, the utility company supplements the energy.


The final component to your solar panel system is its monitoring. National Energy Partners provides responsive monitoring in real-time for performance and maintenance for both commercial and residential consumers alike. 

Click to Download Infographic Below!

About National Energy Partners:

National Energy Partners (NEP) is a solar energy development company dedicated to bringing clean, renewable energy to businesses and residential consumers alike. NEP is at the forefront of the solar energy landscape. Our passion is in fostering relationships through integrity, knowledge, and efficiency. NEP embraces the specific needs and challenges of each project. We offer our valued clients the best experience through strategic management, trusted relationships, and eco-friendly solar energy solutions.

NEP has 10+ years of experience in the solar industry. Our portfolio includes over $100 million of projects with more in development.

Get a Solar Quote for Your Home or Business.

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