Alternating or direct: do solar panels produce AC?
When electricity was first employed in technology last century, many used direct current which, in layman’s terms, is electricity that only flows in one direction. More recently, there was a way to produce the more useful alternating current, which flows in both directions and produces a better output.
Most technology uses alternating current as it produces a higher gain output; however, direct current is a traditional and steadfast method to use. So in the case of a solar panel, which produces electrical energy, the output could go either way for the user, who more than likely needs alternating current to power their home or building.
So do solar panels produce AC? And if they do not produce alternating current, how can the energy they produce be used as alternating current for the system?
How Solar Panels are Powered
Solar panels are made of photovoltaic cells that absorb sunlight and convert it into electrical energy, which is in turn sent through the system to power your home. The rate in which the cells convert sunlight, the amount of sunlight converted, and the durability and price of the panel are all factors based off of what type of panel you have.
Solar panels can also be battery-powered, and usually have a battery either way to store electricity throughout the night. Solar panels may also come with trackers to point the panel in the direction of most sunlight exposure.
Do Solar Panels Produce AC?
As solar panels are an older technology based off the concept of a photovoltaic cell, solar panels do not produce alternating current, they produce direct current. Homeowners used to have systems with lights and such that ran off of entirely direct current (incandescent lights, etc.), so they used solar panels to power them.
Most trackers even use direct current, as you’ll find many use the panel to power the tracker through the grid system or off-grid through a battery.
How can Solar Panels Produce AC?
There are two ways to allow solar panels to produce alternating current (which most homes run on anyhow), and they both involve the inverter. An inverter is simply an electrical device that converts direct current into alternating current.
The first and more common is simply an inverter that grids into the system; the installers would hook up your panel into the inverter, which in turn gets connected to the grid. Luckily, these type of simple inverters, although they add another part, are becoming increasingly inexpensive.
The second option is a more recent endeavor called “micro-inverters”; basically, the solar company that makes the panel has small inverters hooked up to each solar cell to immediately convert direct current into alternating current, making the output of the panel itself alternating current. The micro-inverter is the better option power-wise as there is no direct current output from the panel to the inverter, which causes a small voltage drop depending on the circumstances of amount of power and distance; the panel produces max power this way.
The Answer to the Question: Do Solar Panels Produce AC?
When getting a solar system, making sure you have all the proper equipment to power the system is never the easiest process, and, considering solar panels produce a certain type of output, you want to make sure your hookup will assist you in producing the output you want without losing anything. Luckily, even though most homes run on AC, there are ways to make the panels produce converted AC.
In most cases even, solar panels do produce AC directly from the panel thanks to new technologies. All in all, how solar panels produce power is another reason why solar panels are a good option for your home.