How Solar Energy Works

Solar PV (Photovoltaic) systems capture sunlight and convert it into electricity that can be used to power everything traditional electricity powers (lights, appliances to electric cars).

Solar PV (Photovoltaic) systems are composed of individual solar cells that are configured onto a solar panel or module.  When sunlight shines on a solar cell, the cell absorbs the light's energy and produces a flow of electrons, known as direct current (DC) electricity.

Because appliances and machinery operate on alternating current (AC), a device called an inverter converts the DC electricity to the AC power necessary to power your home or business.

PV cells work any time the sun shines and will produce more electricity when sunlight strikes the PV modules directly rather than at an angle.

1    Individual PV cells connect to panels.  Solar panels convert sunlight into DC electricity.

2    Inverters Convert DC into AC for powering electric units in the home.

3    The utility meter records the net amount of energy generated through the PV system.  When you are creating more electricity than you are using, your meter will spin backward, and the excess power is sent to the electric grid.  This helps offset the cost of your electricity usage at night or on cloudy days when your system cannot produce electricity.

Guide to Going Solar - Pacific Gas and Electric Company.