How Does Solar Energy Work? How Solar Power Works

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Graphic credit: Photovoltaic Education Network

For those wanting to know more about solar power and how we obtain energy from the sun, this information from the Photovoltaic Education Network will prove to be of immense use.

Created by Christiana Honsberg and Stuart Bowden, who work at the Solar Power Labs at Arizona State University, they introduce their website with a poignant description of photovoltaics as:

“…a most elegant energy source. Light shines on a crystal and produces electricity. It’s as simple as that. There are no moving parts. The fuel source (sunlight) is free, abundant and widely distributed, available to every country and person in the world. At over 165,000 TW the solar resource dwarfs the world’s current power usage of 16 TW or even our projected future usage of 60 TW.”

The authors describe their site, which was partially funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, as an e-book on PV – a project that evolved from how it was initially distributed via CDs yet still maintains its “ungainly title of PVCDROM.”

Here are the contents:

            1. Introduction

            2. Properties of Sunlight

            3. PN Junction

            4. Solar Cell Operation

            5. Design of Silicon Cells

            6. Manufacturing Si Cells

            7. Modules and Arrays

            8. Characterisation


As important as anything else on this site is an invitation to participate in the site and provide improvements. They write:

“Help us improve the PVCDROM. If you find any errors or have suggestions please post to the forums. Clicking on the Discuss link at the end of each page takes you to the forum discussion for that page. Alternatively, send an email to”

For anyone wanting to know more about solar energy and how PV panels work, this is a remarkably comprehensive place to visit.

And a special thanks to Chittaluru Akil and Jesse Williams whose comments on another post about how PV works introduced me to this site.


PHOTO: Photovoltaic Education Network 



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Glenn Meyers

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

Glenn Meyers has 449 posts and counting. See all posts by Glenn Meyers