Nowadays, solar panels play a pivotal role in offering us an alternative energy source by harnessing the power of the sun. The global shift towards renewable energy sources is getting bigger and bigger as people recognize the benefits of tapping into this unlimited source as compared to relying on traditional sources like fossil fuels.
Did you know that according to the US Energy Information Administration, solar panels generated about 3% of US electricity in 2020 and are projected to make up 14% AND 20% in 2035 and 2050, respectively? This shows the upward trend of the solar industry and that it is here to stay.
Aside from being a clean energy solution, solar panels are marvels of modern manufacturing. These sleek devices can manage to convert sunlight into electricity capable of powering our homes, businesses, and even entire cities.
With the remarkable statistics above and its function, have you ever wondered how solar panels are made?
Technology Behind Solar Panels
Before delving into the intricate process of solar panel production, let us have a quick Solar Panel 101 and learn about the technology behind it.
There are two primary technologies being used for electricity generation through solar energy –Photovoltaic (PV) panels or modules and Concentrating Solar Power (CSP).
For this article, we are primarily focusing on PV panels particularly those made using crystalline silicon (c-SI) technology which is currently dominating the industry. According to the Department of Energy, the c-SI technology accounts for a staggering 85% of US solar panels.
Where are solar panels made?
Solar panels are manufactured across the globe, with production facilities located in various regions. While you can find solar panel manufacturers in places like the United States and Europe, a significant portion of solar panels is produced in countries within Asia (this is due to lower labor costs).
However, it's worth noting that many high-quality solar panels are still manufactured in the United States, where stringent quality control measures can be applied at every stage of production. It's important to recognize that the raw materials used in solar panels may come from various sources around the world, as supply chains can extend across multiple countries.
Raw Materials: The Building Blocks of Solar Panels
Silicon – You could say that this is the most important material in solar panel production. In producing solar panels, raw silicon is purified through complex processes to achieve a high level of purity. This is a must for an efficient energy conversion.
Did you know that silicon is one of the most abundant elements on Earth, found in sand and various materials?
There are also two common types of solar panels and both are made from silicon, Polycrystalline solar panels (multiple silicon crystals) and monocrystalline solar panels which are made from a single silicon crystal. To learn more about these two types, click here.
Glass – This is for protecting and transmitting light and the front surface of a solar panel is typically made of durable tempered glass. Aside from protecting the solar cells from the elements, it also allows the sunlight to pass through and reach the cells underneath.
Metal – The electrical components and frameworks are made of metal, with aluminum being a common choice due to its lightweight nature and resistance to corrosion.
The Building Process: From Sand to Solar Cell
Step 1: Silicon Ingot Production – This is the start of building a solar panel. The purified raw silicon is melted and then solidified into large cylindrical ingots (imagine giant silicon sausages). Once ready, they will be sliced to extremely thin wafer using diamond-tipped saws.
Step 2: Solar Cell Fabrication – The thin wafers will follow a series of steps to become functional solar cells. Dopants, such as boron and phosphorous, are added to create a semiconductor effect. This is a key step as this will allow the cells to generate electricity upon exposure to sunlight. Electrical contact and anti-reflective coatings will also be added.
Step 3: Solar Module Assembly – To create a solar module, multiple solar cells are then interconnected. The arrangement follows a strict configuration for energy production optimization. Encapsulation materials will also be used to seal and protect the cells.
Step 4: Final Inspection / Quality Control – To ensure quality and durability, solar panels will undergo quality control measures. For the final inspection, a comprehensive test will be done e.g., visual inspection, safety checks, and electrical performance test. Note that quality control is done not only as a final step but throughout the manufacturing process.
Should I Make My Solar Panels?
In the age of abundant DIY tutorials on platforms like YouTube or readily available information through online searchers, building your solar panels might be enticing. However; we strongly suggest against this. even if you have the right materials and information. The complexity and inherent risks, such as intricate electrical work, where errors can lead to significant hazards, make DIY solar panels a risky proposition.
Professionally manufactured solar panels, on the other hand, adhere to rigorous standards, undergo durability testing, and come with warranties that provide peace of mind. These panels also comply with building codes and regulations, ensuring safety and legal compliance.
The good news is that there are reputable companies that specialize in solar panel production. Additionally, many regions offer incentives and tax credits to promote the adoption of solar energy. Therefore, opting for DIY projects to save money upfront should not be entertained as a viable alternative.
If you want to purchase quality solar panels, one reputable company to consider is Nature's Generator, known for its comprehensive eco-power solutions that cater to all your home's power requirements. For instance, Nature's Generator Powerhouse Power Panel utilizes mono-perc solar cells, which guarantees a more efficient method of harnessing solar energy.
The making of solar panels is a fascinating blend of technology and innovation. From purifying raw silicon to the final assembly of panels, each step is carefully orchestrated to ensure durability and efficiency. We could say that solar panels are not only symbols of sustainable energy but a proof of human ingenuity. With the current development of technology, we will surely see more remarkable advancements in the efficiency and affordability of solar panel manufacturing, paving the way for greater adoption of clean energy solutions worldwide.
* We want to give credit where credit is due. Professional writer, Michelle Gamana, contributed research and content to this blog titled: How Are Solar Panels Made Thank you, Michelle, for your contributions!