What is Solar Power?

Energy created by the heat and light of the sun is called solar energy. When the energy that the sun produces is converted into electricity or used to heat air, water or other substances, it is called solar power.

How does solar power work?

There are two main types of solar power technology, solar photovoltaic and solar thermal.

Boundary Power utilises solar photovoltaic technology in our SAPS products.

Solar photovoltaic

Solar photovoltaic (also known as solar PV) technology converts sunlight directly into electricity using a semiconductor cell or solar PV cell. 1

Photovoltaic simply means to convert sunlight into electricity.

The key components of a solar panel are solar PV cells, polysilicon or silicon, metal and glass. When a solar panel is exposed to light, photons strike the PV cells. They may reflect off the cell, pass through the cell or be absorbed by the cell. Only the absorbed photons provide energy to generate electricity. The absorbed energy transfers to negatively charged particles in the material called electrons. This extra energy dislodges the electrons from their atoms, causing them to flow through the material as an electric current, which is then extracted through conductive metal contacts on the cells.

An individual solar cell does not produce much power alone. To increase power output, cells are connected into a module, modules are connected to a panel and multiple panels are connected to form an array.

To convert this current into usable energy, a solar inverter is used to convert the variable direct current (DC) into an alternating current (AC) that can be fed into the grid, or used by a local, off-grid network. 2

Solar PV cell

Why does Solar work so well in Australia?

The amount of energy that hits the Earth’s surface directly affects solar PV cells. After passing through the ozone and atmosphere, around 1000W/m2 (on a good day) hit the surface. In places like Western Australia’s Pilbara – this amount can be higher.

While the Pilbara is an excellent place for sunlight, the area temperature doesn’t always have peak performance parameters. PV panels generate the highest electricity per cell at 25C temp. Excessively hot or cold temperatures can reduce maximum performance, making spring the best-performing month for solar PV arrays.

Solar appetite is growing

Across Australia and the world, the uptake of solar power by individuals and businesses has grown. At the end of 2020, more than 700 GW of solar was installed worldwide, meeting around 3 percent of global electricity demand. Solar PV generated approximately 10 per cent of Australia’s electricity in 2020-21 and is the fastest growing generation type in Australia.1

  1. Solar energy – Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)
  2. Solar Integration: Inverters and Grid Services Basics | Department of Energy