How Does Solar Energy Work In Simple Terms?

Sunlight is all the light or visible electromagnetic radiation emitted in the form of wavelengths.This radiation is commonly called SOLAR ENERGY.

It is electromagnetic waves with a frequency and an energy: the shorter the wavelength, the higher the frequency and the more energy it carries, the longer the wavelength the less energy it carries. See the illustration below.

How Does Solar Energy Work In Simple Terms?

It basically ranges from gamma rays to radio waves in simple terms. A large amount of this radiation is not visible to the naked eye but most of the energy is emitted in the visible range of the of 400 nm to 700 nm.

The wavelengths of radiation heating the Earth’s atmosphere lies in the range 100 to 106 nanometers.

Solar radiation can divided into three major regions of radiation.

Ultraviolet ranges of 100 to 400 nm. It is invisible to the naked eye and most of it is absorbed by the earths atmosphere.

Visible range or the light we see – 400 to 700 nm.

Infrared range that spans from 700 nm to 106 nm.

Infra red radiation has less energy than visible light and ultraviolet radiation more.

So what does this mean for solar panels?

Different types of solar cells respond differently to different wavelengths of light. Some use all the visible light others not.

The to high or to low frequencies are converted to heat and certain silicon based pv cells use whole visible spectrum, others not.

There are two ways of converting the energy:

  • Using the suns rays directly to heat water e.g. some swimming pool water heaters or hot water geysers.
  • Using the suns rays to generate electricity using photovoltaic cells – pv solar panels.