How solar panels work

Posted 09/08/2019 by E.ON

Solar panels have been around for decades and are a familiar sight on roofs around the UK, with over a million installations alone. Solar panels generate electricity that can be used to power your appliances, lights and electric car.

You know what these solar photovoltaic panels look like, and what they do, but do you know how they work and how they can contribute to a cleaner future?

From sunshine to electricity - but how?

Solar panels create energy out of exposure to daylight. The panels themselves consist of smaller solar cells. These solar cells are then made up of several layers of semi-conductors.

When sunlight hits the solar cells, it creates an electric current between these layers called direct current energy. With the help of an inverter the direct current energy is then converted to usable alternating current which flows through the home’s electrical system and is distributed to your TV and other appliances.

Okay but what happens if it's cloudy out?

Solar panels need daylight rather than sunshine, meaning they can generate electricity even when its cloudy. Although solar panels are more efficient when exposed to direct sunlight, they still create an electric current which helps power homes on cloudy days (which is perfect for homes in the UK).

The amount of energy solar panels make isn’t reliant upon high temperatures either. Solar panels can convert light into energy in the coldest of weather as well as in the midst of summer. This means regardless of the weather, you don't have to worry that your system isn't going to work.

Solar energy can be used at night

The electricity produced by solar panels can be used in your own home as and when it's generated. And if the solar panels generate more energy than you can use - for example in the middle of the day when people are often out of the house – then battery and storage systems mean the excess can be stored ready for use when you need it. This means you will import less electricity from the grid which will save you money on your bills.

Our innovative battery storage systems enable you to use around 30% more of the electricity you generate than with solar panels alone.

Powering your journey and the future

Generating your own solar power isn't just for your house, it can be used to charge your car too - both full electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. Solar systems generate renewable power for your home and your transport - that means less petrol or diesel going into the car and fewer harmful emissions coming out of the exhaust.

Solar energy is renewable and better for the environment than the fossil fuels we have come to rely on and this is why E.ON now provide all our customers’ homes with 100% renewable electricity as standard1. Solar panels help reduce your own personal carbon footprint as well as carbon emissions in the UK more generally. Aside from these obvious environmental benefits, solar panels coupled with a battery storage system will help you reduce your energy bills even further.

Solar panels are just the start. Learn more about how we can help you harness the power of solar energy, and find a system that's right for you.



1. Electricity sourced from E.ON’s renewable generation assets, supply agreements with independent UK wind generators and the purchase of renewable electricity certificates. The electricity supplied to your homes comes from the National Grid. Find out more at


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