Design Of Solar Panel System: See How It Actually Works (Photovoltaic System)

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Solar Panels | April 1, 2024

Man looking at solar power system parts and wondering how to understand the design of solar panel (photovoltaic system) and the parts of a solar panel diagram in order to design an off grid solar system, solar array design for a solar power system.

Imagining your home powered with reusable energy is possible with a specific design of solar panel system made uniquely to meet your energy needs.

Solar technology innovations and cost efficiency has steadily increased, making it possible for homeowners to disconnect from the grid, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

But, before investing in a solar energy system, most people are curious about the design of solar panel energy and ask, how do solar panels work, and how much power does a solar panel produce?

Understanding the design of solar power and how you can use it to provide all or part of your energy needs can be an important part of the equation.

This complete guide outlines the parts of a solar panel and how they are connected with other mechanisms to create energy independence.

Design of Solar Panel Energy System: Designing an Off Grid Solar System

Understanding the design of solar panel systems can help you make decisions concerning your energy needs and options.

An good and efficient design of solar panel system will help prevent any greenhouse gases created by fossil fuels.

Graphics showing the design of solar panel system including the electric grid, solar array, solar inverter, DC and AC disconnectors, solar panel mounts, solar panel frames, charge controller, battery bank, and PV meter.

Whether you decide to embark on a do-it-yourself installation journey or have a professional company tackle the project for you, these parts of a solar panel are required:

Solar Array

In short, a solar array combines several solar panels connecting for one main goal, receiving energy from nature’s main power source, the sun.

For the average household, a solar array comprises between 13-21 interlinked modules to produce clean and renewable energy.

Solar Inverter

A solar inverter takes on converting Direct Current (DC) to Alternating Current (AC), which powers most of our homes.

This conversion enables you to use that electricity in your appliances and electronics or even send any excess back into the grid.

DC and AC Disconnectors

In the event of an electrical emergency, DC and AC disconnectors can be a lifesaving and invaluable measure.

The National Electrical Code (NEC) requires DC disconnectors to be easily accessible. The accessibility is for anyone, including the fire department, to shut down the electrical system immediately in case of an emergency.

Solar Panel Mounts

Solar module mounts are cleverly designed to provide the most effective access to sunlight.

With ground or roof-mounted options, these solar panel modules are strategically placed in an optimal location based on property structure and location.

Solar Panels Frames

The solar panel frame is a vital component. It’s made of aluminum which effectively shields the glass and solar cells from corrosion and damage.

Charge Controller

Preventing power overload is the job of a charge controller.

The charge controller keeps the battery bank healthy and prevents overloads and wasted energy.

Battery Bank

Some fear being in the dark due to using all its solar power energy. The battery bank stores any leftover energy to use for later.

On overcast days, rainstorms, and evenings the battery bank is doing what it’s made to do to keep reusable energy flowing through the photovoltaic system. The battery bank will ensure your home will have green energy day or night.

A battery bank still has many homeowners scratching their heads, asking, “What size solar panel to charge 12v battery?” There are several benefits of 12v batteries, such as slower discharging and a minimum 5-year life span.

A 12v battery works well in various sizes, from 100 watts or 310-watt solar panels. A solar panel calculator is always recommended for a better estimate prior to purchasing.

With the help of an energy tool base and other software technology, reusable energy data can provide exactly how much energy is generated and saved in the photovoltaic system.

PV Meter

Smart meters provide monitoring of your solar energy system performance. With a PV Meter, also known as a net meter, you can use either your computer or smartphone to access data on the amount of electricity generated.

If you opt for a grid-tied solar system, Consumption Meter is the best option. The Consumption Meter date will provide information on the electrical power being pulled from both the utility company and the PV system.

Electric Grid Tie

Photovoltaic Systems have the sun that does most of the work. However, Solar panels need some assistance from your local grid or utility company.

This is called grid-tied. A grid-tied setup still assists with generating reusable energy with the goal of less air population.

However, off-grid solutions that tap the source of a battery bank provide an ideal alternative for families ready to go completely off-grid.

What Are Solar Panels Made Of? Parts of a Solar Panel

Solar technology is an effective energy source that utilizes materials like aluminum, silicon, steel, and glass.

Graphics of parts of solar panels showing how solar panel materials are layered, from the frame, glass, encapsulant, solar cells, encapsulant, to the backsheet, and the junction box.

Solar also uses minimal amounts of precious metals such as silver and copper to help capture energy from the sun. So, what are solar panels made of?

Solar Panels Materials

Solar panels are primarily made of ecological materials. The solar panel materials used in manufacturing are listed below.

Aluminum

Aluminum is a silvery metal that makes up to 8% of the earth’s outer rock layer, called the earth crust.

The solar panel frames are made from aluminum. Some of the cells have a portion of aluminum.

Copper

Copper is a critical component of solar panels, providing reliable energy transfer and protection against the elements.

By backing the panel with copper support, the PV system’s durability increases while cooling down more rapidly.

Copper Indium Selenide prototype in petri dish with division with white paint that shows the solar energy contacts.

(Image: James Sham, U.S. Department of Energy8)

The solar panel maintains optimal levels of sun-power absorption. The solar panel lifespan is extended by reinforcing certain parts of these sophisticated devices with copper.

Glass

The glass for solar panels harvests natural light and is made of semiconductor-based solar cells in between two sheets of glass. The industry standard for a PV solar panel weight is 20 kg.

Silicon

Silicon is the most common semiconductor material used to make PV solar panels.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, silicon is the second generous material on Earth after oxygen, of course.3

Silver

The University of Virginia reports that photovoltaic system panels of two square meters in size use approximately 20 grams of silver.6

Like copper, silver material conducts electricity through the wiring.

Steel Racking

Steel is used for the solar racking to place the PV solar panels in the best location to generate renewable energy.

The steel beams and steel tubes help keep the PV solar panels in place and off the ground.

What Is PV Solar?

A photovoltaic system, or a PV Solar system, delivers energy directly from the sun. As simple as it sounds, homeowners understandably ask, “What is PV solar, and What does a solar panel do?”

PV solar uses the natural power of sunlight to create reusable electricity through the photovoltaic effect.

The photovoltaic effect takes the sunlight and turns it into an electric charge known as protons. Your PV solar system now has electricity, also called voltage.

The power in the voltage is the power rating. In the photovoltaic system language, the power rating is called a PV watt.

A solar panel averages 250-400 PV watts, and this is power rating of a solar panel. The design of a solar panel system starts with a solar panel that is also referred to as a PV device.

This PV device is made of several cells almost as thick as four human hair strands, as described by the U.S. Department of Energy.1

What Is the Solar System?

To avoid any gameshow type of questions such as, “What is the solar system” and to reduce any confusion, we are not connecting to Mars for solar power. Well, we’re not connecting to the planets just yet.

However, we do need one of the brightest stars, the sun, to power the design of the solar panel system.

When you hear solar or solar system is all about the benefits from the sun and its sun rays providing us natural energy with no greenhouse fumes.

Solar Power System vs. Photovoltaic System (Solar Panel Installation)

Solar energy is the central similarity between solar power systems and photovoltaic systems. However, when it comes time to decide which for you to choose, you may wonder, “Solar Power System vs. Photovoltaic System” is best.

Depending on where you are in your eco-friendly journey, consider the functions of the solar panel system and the photovoltaic system described below to help identify your specific needs for your home or business:

Solar Power System

Solar panels are used to convert solar radiation into heat, also known as solar thermal.

This option is great for heating your home and recreation use. The homemade solar pool heater design can comfortably be heated with the help of a solar thermal setup.

With the thermal storage, hot water and warm home can be enjoyed year around.

Photovoltaic System

The photovoltaic system uses the energy from the sun to bring electricity throughout the home.

The electric field that is not used is sent back to the electric grid.

Closeup of tandem cell used to divide sunlight to beams that are best in different solar panel materials like silicon and aluminum.

(Image: U.S. Department of Energy7)

Your options are abundant with solar technologies. Reducing your carbon footprint with the help of your PV system is a great start.

Photovoltaic System and the Environment

In day-to-day living, we may have forgotten that car fumes, grid electricity, planes, and trains all leave a carbon footprint. The photovoltaic system is built to clean the air and relieve the earth of emissions from burning coils and other air pollutants.

The main objective of photovoltaic systems and the environment is saving the planet for future generations. Regarding clean energy for the present and future, carbon emissions so far cannot outperform a photovoltaic system.

The photovoltaic system’s lifespan is 30 years or more.

There is the complexity of how to build solar panel systems. But the benefits of zero gas emission with this green option can last for three decades.

Being part of the solution to improve the air quality from natural gasses, carbon dioxide, and decreasing your family’s average carbon footprint per person for 30 years is something to think about.

Cleaner air free from pollutants is more than a United States public health issue, it’s a global issue. Health issues like asthma, allergies, and bronchitis have been linked to severe illness and death because of ambient (outdoor) air pollution worldwide.

According to the World Health Organization, 23% of deaths were due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and acute lower respiratory infections.

Design of Solar Panel System and Your Color Options

When most environmentally conscious individuals think of designing anything, we may consider size, colors, and shapes. However, in the design of solar panel system world, this is quite different.

Upgrading the design experience in the solar panel color scheme is in the works. However, for efficiency purposes, black and blue are your main options.

Other colors are available, but your PV system company will inform you the efficiency of an alternative color may be disappointing.

How Do Solar Panels Work on a House?

When your PV solar system is installed, all the components come together to help the sunlight do its magic. So, how do solar panels work on a house, an electric current begins through the photovoltaic effect.

This current is fed through specialized inverters to transform into alternating current (AC). The AC energy then enters directly into your home via electrical wiring, and any remaining electricity will be stored in a battery bank for later use.

Although there are off-grid options, 90% of all residential U.S. solar power systems are connected to their local electrical grid, as reported by Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia reported.2

Is the Tempered Glass for Solar Panels Better?

Tempered glass offers exceptional strength and durability compared to standard flat plate solar glass. This heat-processed glass shields from extreme weather conditions and other potential damages.

Silicon for Solar Cells: Why Are Raw Materials for Solar Panels Required?

Silicon is king when it comes to the most efficient solar panel. This rough-surfaced solar cell has a 32% efficiency rate, as reported by the Department of the U.S. Department of Energy, and is more than adequate.4

Each kind of solar cell differs in cost but is available in Monocrystalline Silicon Cells, Polycrystalline and Thin Film Cells are reliable photovoltaic cells.

With the help of copper, aluminum, glass, plastic, and other raw materials, the solar panel can do its job best. Absorbing the silicon cells provided by the sunlight’s protons is the foundation of the solar panel’s purpose.

Solar Panel Wiring Diagram PDF

A solar panel wiring diagram is a blueprint of what your photovoltaic system will need to function properly with the best wiring setup.

This design will include the power density of solar panels, which is one of the main foundations of having a working and adequate solar system.

This blueprint will also determine the solar PV panel size and all parts needed to ensure the writing that supports the PV watts and battery system.

Solar Power Installation (Solar Panel Installation)

Although its not recommended by the U.S. Department of Energy, installing your own solar power system is possible for some green solar enthusiasts. It is recommended first to secure the necessary permits to avoid being penalized by your local city codes.

Your safety is a priority. Taking safety precautions must be in place before beginning your solar project.

This building process can be more challenging than your favorite do it your self solar grill.

If you are planning a DIY project or simply want to learn more about this amazing eco-friendly option, consider these suggestions:

  • Read each safety guideline in the installation instruction manual.
  • Conduct an inventory check for materials and quality of the solar panels.
  • Safety Gear-Eye protection, gloves, and safety harness for roof.
  • Invest in a multi-meter to ensure no electrical voltage is present before installation.
  • Carry PV solar panels with care.
  • Put a lifting plan in action with a ladder or mechanical lift.

If you are not confident that you can do the wiring, placing the solar panels on the roof, and other labor-intensive steps of this solar project, you don’t have to.

It is recommended by the Department of U.S. Energy Department to find a qualified professional from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners.5

Related Reading: How To Install Solar Panels on Roof (And if It’s Even Worth It for Your Home)

Solar Array Design vs. Solar Panel Design

Solar array design vs. solar panel design has two different functions.

Solar panel designs are not only pre-wired but are individually put together. This PV module is used to absorb electrical energy.

A solar array design involves the grouping of solar panels. A solar array is used for community solar systems, which is also an option but, unfortunately, not readily available.

How To Design Solar Panel Structure

The design of your solar panel begins with figuring out your energy needs.

This figure can be accomplished with the help of a Kilowatt (Kwh) calculator.

How To Calculate Your Daily Power Demand

It’s no secret that Americans are working on conserving energy. Some countries are doing better, such as China.

However, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports average U.S. monthly electricity usage from 886-kilowatt hours (kWh) in 2021 to 907 kWh in 2022.

Solar calculators are vital when determining the best use of solar energy. Your utility bills from the previous year and a solar calculator will give you insight into how much power you need and use.

Daily Usage can be determined by calculating Power in:

Watts x Average hours of direct sunlight = Daily Watt-hours

For example, a 300W solar panel has the potential to produce 2.4 kWh of electricity when exposed to 8 hours of sunlight. You can also use this solar panel calculator:

Solar Panels Construction Cost

The cost to get solar panel systems up and running does depend on the state, materials used, and other factors.

However, according to Consumer Affairs, the average expense is $20,000 after Federal tax incentives.

Graphics of solar panel soft cost breakdown showing 64% of solar panel costs are made of supply chain costs; installation labor; customer acquisition; indirect corporate costs; installer/developer profit; transaction costs; sales tax; permitting, installation, interconnection labor; and permit fee.

(Image: U.S. Department of Energy9)

However, each household photovoltaic system budget will differ. The manpower, materials, and operational cost will fluctuate.

Related Reading: How Much Do Solar Panels Cost

The design of solar panel can be similar and the solar panel’s construction cost is unique for each eco-friendly household.

Now that you see how it actually works by understanding each key component that goes into designing a photovoltaic system get started on your solar panel design today!

Reducing your family’s carbon footprint and unplugging from the grid can start with an efficient and good design of solar panel energy system.

Frequently Asked Questions About Design of Solar Panel

What Is a Solar Cell Made Of?

Solar cells are made with several materials but primarily silicon.

Why Do We Use Silicon Solar Cells?

Silicon is the main component of solar cells, powering a wide range of residential and commercial buildings. Besides its proven efficiency, it has a lifespan of up to 25 years or longer.

What Is the Size of a Solar Panel?

The size of standard solar panel for residential homes is 66×40 inches for its panel, plus 1.25 x1.6 inches for its frame. If you’re unsure of what size you need, a solar panel size chart will help you be more informed of your options.

What Is the Weight of a Standard Solar Panel?

How much does a solar panel weigh is a good question to research and ask your PV systems technician. Each manufacturer’s solar products offer varying weights; however, solar panels can be as light as 33 pounds, up to 40 in standard size with 60-cell panels.

What Is the Most Efficient Way To Set Up My Structure for Solar Panels?

The most efficient structure for a solar panel installation depends on the angle of the roof and latitude. Homes with steep or low-angle roofs require specialized racking for a successful solar panel installation.

Does the Solar Panel Tilt Angle Matter?

To ensure maximum sunlight coverage, the ideal angle should match the home’s latitude and face south, typically between 30 – 45 degrees.

What Is the Best Way To Place Solar Panel Mounts on a Shingle Roof?

Installing PV solar systems on shingle roofs is often straightforward; the PV solar systems can be smoothly integrated into a shingles roof. Whether a shingle or Clay roof, the right angles, and proper installation are key.

How Many Hours of Sunlight Do Solar Panels Need?

Keep in mind location matters! Sun rays vary in each location. It can be a surprise that sunlight in the morning may be counted as half an hour. Whereas the afternoon will offer a full hour because of the robust sunlight.

Why Do I Need To Know the Calculation of Solar Power in My Home?

Your household has an energy usage comfort level that is evident in your utility bill records. The calculation data will help your PV technician properly build your desired photovoltaic system without sacrificing comfort.

 

What Are the Reasons for Sizing Solar System?

After reviewing your previous utility bills, you know the amount of usage you need this is called “sizing,” and your solar installer will help determine a properly sized system that meets all your energy needs.

How Much Electricity Do Solar Panels Produce?

With several different solar panel manufacturers, it’s estimated that one individual solar panel produces 250-400 watts of electricity. What each solar household produces each day depends on their usage, the size of a photovoltaic system, and more.

What Is an Off-Grid Solar Panel System?

An off-grid Photovoltaic System is completely independent of your local utility company. Off-grid is a 100% self-reliant setup that depends on sunlight and stored battery banks.

What Are the Basic Components of Designing an Off-Grid Solar System?

Solar panels, inverters, charger controllers, and battery banks are the main components of off-grid photovoltaic systems. 48V is the better option for a solar system in an off-grid residence.

Read More About Design of Solar Panel


References

1US Department of Energy. (2023). Solar Photovoltaic Technology Basics. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. Retrieved April 18, 2023, from <https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/solar-photovoltaic-technology-basics>

2Wikipedia. (2023, April 14). Photovoltaic system. Wikipedia. Retrieved April 18, 2023, from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photovoltaic_system>

3US Department of Energy. (2023). Solar Photovoltaic Cell Basics. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. Retrieved April 18, 2023, from <https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/solar-photovoltaic-cell-basics>

4US Department of Energy. (2019, December 03). PV Cells 101, Part 2: Solar Photovoltaic Cell Research Directions. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. Retrieved April 18, 2023, from <https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/articles/pv-cells-101-part-2-solar-photovoltaic-cell-research-directions>

5US Department of Energy. (2023). Homeowner’s Guide to Going Solar. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. Retrieved April 18, 2023, from <https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/homeowners-guide-going-solar>

6Williamson, E. (2022, July 06). UVA Effort to Mine the Silver From Old Solar Panels Receives $250K in DOE Support. UVA Today | University of Virginia. Retrieved April 18, 2023, from <https://news.virginia.edu/content/uva-effort-mine-silver-old-solar-panels-receives-250k-doe-support>

7Working tandem cell solar cell Photo by U.S. Department of Energy / United States government work. Resized and Changed Format. From Flickr <https://www.flickr.com/photos/departmentofenergy/14512945424/sizes/c/>

8Experimental Copper Indium Selenide Solar device prototype Photo by James Sham, U.S. Department of Energy / United States government work. Resized and Changed Format. From Flickr <https://www.flickr.com/photos/departmentofenergy/36568759760/sizes/c/>

9Photo by U.S. Department of Energy. Energy.gov. Retrieved from <https://www.energy.gov/eere/articles/soft-costs-101-key-achieving-cheaper-solar-energy>