Nov 02, 2023

Converting Sunshine to Power: How Solar Cell Works


Wondering how does a solar inverter work? It does play a fundamental role in harnessing solar energy. Solar inverters transform the direct current (DC) generated by PV solar panels into alternating current (AC), which is the format used by household appliances. This article will shed light on solar inverter working principle, the different types available on the market, sizing considerations, and maintenance and precautionary measures to ensure optimal functionality of your solar inverter.

Energy Insights: How Does a Solar Inverter Work

What Is a Solar Inverter?

What is a solar inverter and how does it work? Let's start first with the "what" question. A solar inverter is an important component of a PV solar power system. It's essentially a device that transforms the energy output from solar panels into a usable form of electricity, allowing it to be utilized within your home or workplace. In other words, this critical device operates as a bridge between the photovoltaic system and the energy consumption devices in the house or grid.

Solar inverters are pivotal because solar panels generate direct current (DC), which most home appliances can't use. The primary role of the inverter is to convert this DC electricity into alternating current (AC) electricity. This AC form is compatible with the vast majority of home and office appliances and can be seamlessly fed into the electric grid.

Energy Insights: How Does a Solar Inverter Work

How Does a Solar Inverter Work?

Now, how does a solar power inverter work? By first taking in the direct current (DC) output from your solar panels, the output is then transformed into alternating 120V/240V current (AC). Being decisive because the appliances in your home operate on AC, not DC, hence this conversion is necessary to make the solar energy collected by your solar panels practicable for daily use.

The sun casts its light on your solar panels, which is absorbed by semiconductor layers within the solar or photovoltaic (PV) cells. This absorption of light energy stimulates the movement of electrons, leading to the generation of an electric current, also known as DC. The inverter captures this DC, processes it through a transformer and delivers it as AC to the property's electrical system. The inverter ultimately "fools" the transformer into thinking that the DC is AC by controlling two or more transistors that switch on and off at high speed, feeding varying sides of the transformer.

Types of Solar Inverters

Here are three main types of solar inverters that are commonly used:

String Inverters

These are the most common types of inverters for residential use. There's usually one string inverter per solar installation. They are named as "string inverters" because a "string" (or series) of solar panels are connected to the inverter. The main advantage of this type of inverter is its affordability and reliability, though it's not as efficient if individual panels are shaded.


Microinverters are smaller devices placed on individual panels. They convert the DC power from the panel into AC right where it's generated. This optimizes each solar panel individually, offering better energy returns, especially in shady conditions. They offer improved energy yield from solar panels and often come with individual tracking software to allow problems with a single panel to be identified quickly.

Hybrid Inverters

Hybrid (or multi-mode) inverters are a less common type, allowing you to connect batteries to your solar energy system. They interact with the linked batteries through "DC coupling," meaning both the solar panels and the batteries use the same inverter and the DC from the panels charges the batteries via a DC charger. The solar hybrid inverter working principle is designed for PV systems with a battery backup, therefore offering an requisite feature for off-grid systems or when the primary electric supply is interrupted.

Tips for Choosing the Right Size Inverter

1. Match the Inverter Size with Panel Output: The inverter size should be able to handle the maximum power the solar power system can produce. If your solar power system is a 3kW, you'll require 3kW panels and a similarly-sized 3kW solar inverter.

2. Plan for Future Expansion: If you plan on expanding your solar system in the future, consider a larger inverter than your current solar system requires.

3. Consider the Solar Inverter Efficiency: If your system is to be connected to the grid, choose an inverter with an efficiency of at least 93% (transformer-based) or 95% (transformerless). These thresholds are critical for optimal use of the power generated by the PV system.

4. Consult with Professionals: Reach out to solar energy consultants or installation companies for suitable sizing recommendations based on your specific circumstances.

Maintenance and Precautions for Solar Inverters

1. Check for Weatherproofing: Review if the solar inverter is weather-proof or under a covering that doesn't fully protect it from weather. It may be necessary to consider buying a weather-proof cage to enhance inverter longevity.

2. Review Solar Inverter Display: Checking the solar inverter display often can alert you to operational issues in a timely manner. Information provided on the display may include system power production times and levels, daily energy production, and overall energy production since installation.

3. Ensure Warranties: It's crucial to have a warranty for your solar inverter. While grid-connected inverters usually have a life expectancy of 10-25 years, warranties typically last 5-15 years with an opportunity to extend it at a cost. The longer the warranty, the better, as it provides additional protection against failure.

4. Regular Maintenance: Ensure consistent maintenance to the solar inverter to keep it functioning optimally, which includes soft cleaning with a dry cloth and engaging a professional for periodic technical maintenance.

5. Professional Check-ups: Have a qualified technician perform comprehensive checks periodically to maintain the optimal performance and longevity of your solar inverter.


In conclusion, knowing how does a solar inverter work is critical for utilizing solar energy effectively and optimizing your renewable energy system. By selecting the right type and size of solar inverter, adhering to maintenance guidelines, and taking necessary precautions, you can ensure your solar power system operates efficiently and provides you with sustainable energy for a long time to come. With FusionSolar by your side, stay enlightened and harness the true power of this eco-friendly technology!


Here are some commonly asked questions on how does a solar inverter work.

Can a Solar Inverter Operate Independently of a Battery?

Yes, a solar inverter can operate independently of a battery. In a grid-tied solar system, the inverter directly converts the generated solar power into alternating current (AC) electricity, which can be used by the connected appliances or fed back into the grid without needing a battery for storage.

How Long Will TV Run on an Inverter?

The duration a TV will run on an inverter depends on the inverter's capacity and the power consumption of the TV. To calculate the runtime, divide the inverter's battery capacity (in watt-hours) by the TV's power rating (in watts). The resulting value will give you the approximate number of hours the TV can run on the inverter before the battery is depleted.

What Is the Typical Lifespan of Solar Inverters?

The typical lifespan of solar inverters ranges between

Harnessing the sun's power to meet our ever-increasing energy needs has propelled the significance of comprehending how solar cell works. This article will go into the core aspects of solar cell works, exploring their fundamentals, the different types of photovoltaic solar cells, the conversion process behind producing electricity, and the crucial role of silicon. Additionally, we'll explain how solar panels function as a system and evaluate the costs associated with implementing this clean, renewable energy source. So, what are you waiting for? Let's get started!

Converting Sunshine to Power: How Solar Cell Works

What Is Solar Cell?

A solar cell, also regarded as a photovoltaic (PV) cell, is a specialized semiconductor device that can convert sunlight directly into electricity. It harnesses the energy of light (photo) and transforms it into electricity (voltaic)—a process known as the photovoltaic effect. Solar cells are the most basic building blocks of solar panels, which are commonly used in a variety of settings, including power stations, satellites, and residential buildings.

Solar cells are made out of specially prepared materials called semiconductors. Silicon, known for its efficient photovoltaic conversion properties, is currently the most commonly used semiconductor material. The very important function of a solar cell is to allow light to knock electrons loose, thereby allowing them to flow freely and generate electrical current.

Types of Photovoltaic Solar Cells

Solar cells come in several types, primarily differentiated by the materials and processes used to create them.

1. Monocrystalline Silicon (c-Si): These solar cells are made from a single silicon crystal, offering the highest efficiency levels among all photovoltaic technologies. They are known for their uniform dark appearance and are relatively more expensive due to their manufacturing process.

2. Polycrystalline Silicon (mc-Si): These solar cells consist of multiple small silicon crystals. They have lower efficiency in contrast with monocrystalline cells but are generally more affordable, making them a famous choice for residential and commercial applications. These cells have a distinctly blue or multi-colored appearance due to the light scattering from multiple crystals.

3. Thin-film (TFPV): Thin-film solar cells are made by placing/depositing a very thin layer of semiconductor material onto a glass, plastic, or metal substrate. Some common types of thin-film solar cells include Cadmium Telluride (CdTe), Amorphous Silicon (a-Si), and Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS). These cells have lower efficiencies compared to crystalline silicon cells but are lightweight, flexible, and less expensive, making them suitable for a variety of applications.

4. Multi-junction (MJ): Multi-junction solar cells are composed of multiple layers of semiconductor materials, with each layer designed to capture a specific wavelength of light. This increases their efficiency significantly, making them ideal for high-performance applications like space and aerospace. However, they are more complex and expensive to manufacture.

Photovoltaic Conversion Process

How solar energy works? The photovoltaic conversion process is fundamentally about light interacting with the atoms of a semiconductor material. In a solar cell, when light photons strike the material, enough energy is imparted to dislodge electrons from the material's atoms, creating an electron-hole pair.

Solar cells are strategically built with an electric field that forces these loose electrons to move in a specific direction, generating an electrical current. This electric field corresponds to a voltage, and the product of this voltage and the current gives the power (or wattage) a solar cell can produce. This is how light (a form of energy) is converted into electricity.

Role of Silicon in Solar Cells

Silicon plays an elemental role in the function of solar cells due to its unique chemical properties. Structurally, a silicon atom has 14 electrons arranged in three different shells and needs to share 4 electrons with other atoms to stabilize itself. This characteristic makes silicon suitable for sharing and receiving electrons, a property directly learning itself about the conversion of light into electricity.

In a more advanced context, silicon in solar cells is generally "doped" or machinated with impurities to alter its conductivity. For instance, silicon can be doped with phosphorus (N-type silicon), which creates an excess of free electrons, or with boron (P-type silicon), which created an abundance of "holes". These free electrons from N-type silicon, under the influence of the electric field, power through to the P-type silicon giving rise to electric current.

How Do Solar Panels Work?

How a solar panel works? A PV solar panel is a collection of solar cells electrically connected together and mounted in a frame — a solar array. Each solar cell generates a relatively small amount of electricity, but collectively, the power generated by multiple cells adds up.

When sunlight hits a PV solar panel, energy is absorbed by the solar cells and used to loosen electrons from silicon atoms, causing them to move and generate electrical current. That's how solar panel works. The current, in combination with the cell's voltage, defines the amount of power that the solar cell can produce.

The electricity produced by a PV solar panel is direct current (DC). However, most modern homes require alternating current (AC) power. Therefore, the power a solar panel generates must first pass through an inverter to transform it from DC to AC for everyday use. The practical efficiency of converting solar light into usable power varies with different technologies, with the top commercial panels having an efficiency of around 30%.

Converting Sunshine to Power: How Solar Cell Works

How Much Does Solar Cell Cost?

The cost of solar panels in South Africa can vary greatly based on brand, size, type, and installation expenses. A single solar panel can range from R1,800 (for 360 watts) to R4,200 (for 550 watts). For a typical 3kW solar panel system, you may expect to pay between R45,000 and R70,000. If you're interested in a 5kW solar system off grid, the cost can range from R70,000 to R110,000.

These prices also depend on the region and installer. Despite their significant upfront cost, solar panels present substantial long-term savings by cutting down or completely eliminating reliance on grid electricity.

Bear in mind that the overall cost also includes lifespan and maintenance expenses. Solar panels, appropriately installed and maintained, can function for up to 25 years or more, generating steady energy savings throughout their lifespan.


To conclude, understanding how solar cell works is crucial for using the sun's power and transitioning to more sustainable energy solutions. With various types of photovoltaic solar cells and the essential role silicon plays in solar panels' efficiency, the investment in solar energy becomes increasingly appealing. As the modern trend shifts towards greener practices, the lowering costs of solar cells will make this clean energy technology even more accessible, bringing us closer to a more eco-friendly future. At FusionSolar, we're dedicated to bolstering this transition, driving society closer to a cleaner, brighter future.


Here are some commonly asked questions on how solar cell works.

What Is the Process of How Solar Cells Work?

Solar cells (photovoltaic (PV) cells) convert sunlight directly into electricity through a process called the photovoltaic effect. Initially, solar cells absorb photons from sunlight, which then energize the electrons in the atom. Next, the energized electrons move from a state of low energy to one of high energy, leaving behind "holes." Both the holes and the high-energy electrons then move towards respective terminals resulting in an electric circuit.

What Are the Fundamental Principles behind Solar Cells?

The fundamental principles behind solar cells are anchored in the photovoltaic effect and semiconductor physics. Essentially, solar cells rely on the principle of p-n junction semiconductor where the junction created between a p-type (positively charged) and n-type (negatively charged) semiconductor material facilitates electron movement and creates an electric field.

How Does a Solar Cell Generate Electricity?

How solar PV works? Solar cells generate electricity through a process known as the photovoltaic effect. This starts with photons from sunlight hitting solar panels that are made up of smaller units—solar cells. Each cell is made of semiconducting material usually silicon-based, layered with a positive and a negative layer. When photons are absorbed by the cell, electrons are knocked loose from their atoms. These free electrons are captured and channeled, creating an electrical current, which is then used as electricity. This entire process occurs without any moving parts, releasing no greenhouse gas emissions once installed.