Science Questions

How do solar panels work?

How do solar panels work?

A solar panel turns the sun’s light into electricity! We see electricity at work every day. For instance, when you turn on a lamp, electrons move through the cord and light up the bulb. That flow of electrons is called electricity.

One solar panel is made up of many small solar cells. Each of these cells uses light to make electrons move. The cell is made up of two different layers that are stuck together. The first layer is loaded with electrons, so the electrons are ready to jump from this layer to the second layer. That second layer has had some electrons taken away, so it is ready to take in more electrons.

When the light hits an electron in the first layer, the electron jumps to the second layer. That electron makes another electron move, which makes another electron move, and so on. It was the sunlight that started the flow of electrons, or electricity.

The cars in this photo get their power from the flat solar panels on top. Standing next to each car is the team of high-school students who designed, built, and raced it in the 2010 Solar Car Challenge.

Photo by Solar Car Challenge