top of page

How is Solar Energy Converted into Electricity?

Solar power represents one of the most significant advancements in renewable energy technology. By harnessing the infinite power of the sun, we can generate electricity to power homes, businesses, and more.

You may have seen solar panels on roofs or in fields and gardens across the UK, but do you understand how solar power is generated?

How exactly is Solar Energy Converted into Electricity?

Through an intriguing process called photovoltaics, solar cells convert sunlight into usable electricity. In this article, we will delve into how photovoltaics work to transform solar energy into renewable electricity and why this process is so advantageous for us all.

an image of the sun
How is Solar Energy Converted into Electricity?

What is Solar Energy?

Solar energy is a form of renewable energy derived from the sun's rays. It is a clean, abundant, and sustainable source of energy with the potential to meet a significant portion of our electricity needs while helping to mitigate climate change.

Solar energy is considered renewable because it depends on the sun, which continuously produces energy. Unlike fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas, converting solar energy into electricity does not emit harmful greenhouse gases or other pollutants. Consequently, solar power plays a crucial role in reducing carbon emissions.

Solar energy can be captured and converted into usable electricity or heat. When utilised for heating, the technology is known as 'solar thermal'. However, the majority of solar energy applications are focused on electricity generation.

How is Solar Energy Converted into Electricity?

Solar energy is converted into electricity through photovoltaics, which involve the use of solar cells (also known as photovoltaic cells). These cells are combined to form solar panels.

Each photovoltaic cell is made from semiconductive materials such as silicon, typically arranged in two layers—one negatively charged and the other positively charged (known as p-type and n-type semiconductors).

When photons from the sun's rays strike these materials, they generate electric energy. This occurs because the semiconductive material contains electrons that carry an electric charge. When exposed to the conductive materials, these electrons move, creating an electric current.

Step-by-Step: How Solar Energy is Converted to Electricity

Now that we understand how a solar cell generates an electric current, let's explore the steps involved in delivering that energy to your home.

1. Solar Panels Absorb Sunlight:

Solar panels, which utilise photovoltaic technology, are installed to absorb solar rays.

2. Inverter Changes the Current:

The electrical current produced by solar panels is initially in the form of Direct Current (DC). However, for compatibility with the National Grid and most UK homes, it needs to be converted to Alternating Current (AC). An inverter, part of the solar panel system, ensures the correct current is delivered to the home.

3. Excess Energy is Stored:

Any excess electricity generated can be stored for later use. There are several methods to store solar energy, each with its benefits.

Storing Solar Energy

A downside to solar energy is that solar panels cannot produce electricity without sunlight, such as at night. However, this can be resolved by storing excess energy generated during the day.

Solar Batteries:

Solar batteries store surplus energy for use when needed, allowing you to continue using renewable energy during the night and reducing energy costs. This method also reduces reliance on the National Grid, helping to avoid fluctuating energy prices and ensuring a backup supply during power outages.

Grid Connection:

Excess energy can also be fed back to the grid through schemes like 'net metering' or a 'feed-in tariff'. In the UK, the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) allows homeowners to receive payments for the electricity they supply to the grid. Different suppliers offer varying tariffs, so it is worth researching the best option.

Benefits of Solar Energy

Owning a renewable energy system offers numerous benefits, including:

Reduced Bills:

Solar panels can significantly reduce your reliance on the national grid, lowering your energy bills. UK homes can save up to £1,190 annually by switching to solar panels.

Renewable and Sustainable:

The sun provides around 173,000 terawatts of solar radiation every hour, vastly exceeding human energy consumption needs. This makes solar energy a highly sustainable and promising future energy source.

Clean and Environmentally Safe:

Solar energy production generates no greenhouse gas emissions or air pollutants, making it instrumental in combating climate change and reducing the environmental impact of energy generation. Using solar panels can significantly reduce your carbon footprint.

Increased Property Value:

Homes with solar panels are more attractive to buyers and can sell up to 20% faster than those without. Solar systems can also significantly increase property value.

Low Running Costs:

Solar panels require minimal maintenance once installed, offering long-term cost savings. Photovoltaic systems have few moving parts, necessitating only occasional inspections and maintenance.

Versatility and Adaptability:

Solar panels can be installed on various surfaces, including rooftops, open land, building facades, and portable devices. This adaptability makes solar energy accessible for residential and commercial use, remote areas, and off-grid installations, promoting energy access for all.


The ability to convert the sun's rays into usable energy is a remarkable technological achievement. Through photovoltaics, we can generate renewable energy for our homes, saving money and benefiting the environment.

Solar energy provides numerous advantages and is revolutionising how we power everything from household appliances to entire businesses. By utilising storage options like solar batteries, we can extend the use of solar power and run more technology on renewable energy.

Converting solar energy into electricity is a transformative step towards sustainable living. Lowering carbon footprints, protecting the environment, and saving money lay the foundation for a promising future for our planet.


bottom of page