How solar panels work

Solar panels generate electricity from the sun. They can also be known as solar electricity systems, photovoltaics or PV.

How does solar work?

Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity. Light energy (photons) hits the solar panels and excites the electrons in the atoms of a semi-conducting material (for example silicon), and the movement of these electrons results in an electric current.

What does a solar electricity system look like?

Solar electricity systems usually include:

  • solar panels (sometimes called modules), cables, and mounting or fixing hardware
  • an inverter (or inverters) to convert the electricity generated by the panels into the type used in houses
  • special meters to record how much electricity you generate and sell
  • batteries for grid-connected solar are just coming onto the market?for off-grid applications, batteries, back-up generators and other specialist components.

Does solar work well in New Zealand?

New Zealand has good sunshine hours and solar works across the country. Solar panels perform best in sunny areas such as Nelson/Marlborough, especially when there are high levels of direct sunlight, but some electricity is also generated on cloudy days. Solar generates no electricity at night.