Basically any solar generator is composed of 4 parts: Panels, inverter(s), racking and the optional solar battery storage unit(s).
1- Panels: The way that solar panels work is that the panels generate DC electricity as sunlight, or solar irradiation, stimulates electrons to move through solar cells that are in-built into the solar panels. Contrary to what some may think, it is the sunlight itself, and not heat, that generates the electricity. In fact, overheated panels can become less efficient, similar to any electric device overheating.
2- Inverters: They are a crucial part of any solar energy system. Their purpose is to convert the DC electricity that the solar panels produce into 240V AC electricity, which is what powers everything at home.
Three types of installation could be done for investors :
- String inverters are installed onto a wall in a shaded area and will convert the energy from a string of panels (for residential systems this is usually the entire system) into AC electricity.
- Microinverters are installed on the back of each panel, allowing the energy from the panels to exist independently from each other.
When partial shading occurs on one panel in a string inverter system, the performance of the rest of the panels are also affected (as shown in figures below). Microinverters are the solution to this, as they allow the panels to operate independently.
- String inverters with power optimizers are the middle-of-the-road approach between the two mentioned above, as they are cheaper than microinverters but somewhat less effective. Shading isn’t always a critical issue, so microinverters aren’t always needed.
3- Racking: The third main component of a solar energy system is the racking/mounting. This is what securely attaches your panels to your roof. Racking/mounting will not be a decision you need to think about.
4- Batteries: Used to store the energy generated during the day to be used throughout the night when the system is no longer generating power. Battery technology is quickly developing into a more feasible option for those who primarily use their energy in the evenings.