Solar Panel Components (List and Functions)

Solar panels are becoming our solution to the energy crisis that we face, but what parts make up a solar panel and system – that’s what we’ll find out.

Solar panels may seem complex, but in simplicity, we just need solar panels, an inverter, battery, charge controller, and cables to produce the electricity we can use for household goods.

Let’s break it down a bit further to get a good understanding of how solar systems are made and the components needed.

1. Solar Panels 2. Inverter 3 Charge Controller 4. Solar Battery

Solar Panel Materials

The most essential components of solar panels, especially thin-film ones, are the aluminum frame, solar cells that make up the panel itself are;

  • Solar Glass
  • Eva Provides a Protective Layer on Top of The Solar Cells
  • A Back Sheet
  • Junction Box
  • Interconnector
  • Silicon Glue to Assemble Everything

The most basic elemental material used to create solar cells, which group to form solar panels, is silicon. Silicon is an essential element that can encapsulate and use the sun’s energy to generate power.

Therefore, solar cells are the most fundamental aspect of solar panels — these are the vital pieces that make solar power possible. 

Illustration of a solar panel and each part

Solar Glass

Surrounding the silicon solar cells is what is known as solar glass. Solar glass is specific to be as transparent as possible and withstand heat absorption. This glass sits on the top of the assembled solar cells — now you have a solar panel.

EVA Plastic

EVA is an abbreviation for Ethylene-vinyl acetate. It’s a transparent plastic adhesive that bonds the other panel components (the solar cells and glass) together and provides another outside layer for the panel.

Back Sheet

A back sheet is essentially a layer of protection applied as a sort of heavy-duty sticker onto the back of the board to protect it from contact with electronic elements and make it easier to maneuver. 

Aluminum Frame

We then have the aluminum frame. Aluminum works best to complete the solar panel because it’s light and strong. However, solar panels (solar cells, glass, EVA, and back sheets) are not strong enough to resist wind, rain, and heat alone.

Therefore, the aluminum frame is essential to protect these more delicate elements from wear and tear and hold everything together.

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Solar Panel FAQ Video

Electrical Components

The electrical components of a solar panel include the junction box and the interconnector. You can affix the junction box to the back of the board onto the back sheet.

This box holds the beginning of wires to connect solar panels and the battery. The interconnector is a wire each solar panel has to connect with the other panels.

Silicone

Finally, what can you use to put all these components together? Ordinary glue is too rigid and brittle, so silicon glue is an ideal flexible adhesive.

It’s also an excellent adhesive for outdoor equipment like solar panels, as it’s highly weather-resistant and tough. You can easily adhere the solar cells to the solar glass and connect the electrical components to the panel using silicon glue.

Solar panel setup controller batteries inverter. Infogrpahic.

What are the Four Basic Components of a Solar Power Plant?

Solar power plants are like home solar panel systems multiplied several times over. Solar power plants are helpful for factories, industrial areas, agriculture, and civil engineering projects like power plants and construction.

However, homes and businesses can use smaller ones. It simply depends on the size of the plant. The four main components of a solar power plant system are the;

  • Solar Panels
  • Charge Controller
  • Inverter
  • Battery Bank

What are Solar Panel Accessories? 

The solar panel accessories can vary depending on the type and style of the panel you operate. However, many products will require additional items, such as batteries, solar wires, connectors, charge controllers, monitoring equipment, racking mounts, and more. 

We’ve discussed solar panels above. The solar power plant system may use any one of the three types of solar panels (or as they are sometimes called photovoltaic panels), but they are likely using amorphous/thin-film solar panels for their plant.

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Charge Controller

A charge controller regulates the flow of solar energy panels produced, preventing power surges that can cause significant problems to systems or devices hooked up to the energy grid.

There are two common charge controller types: Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) and Pulse Width Modulation (PWM).

What is an MPPT Solar Controller? If you live in an area with low sunlight, using an MPPT Solar Controller can be beneficial. It optimizes the voltage from the solar panel to the batteries, providing a 30% higher charging efficiency. 

MPPT charge controllers track the maximum point of power that the solar panels can generate and can easily regulate the energy flow when the batteries get full rather than overcharging the batteries.

It’s easy for MPPT charge controllers to control the voltage flow from the panels to the batteries. Pulse Width Modulation charge controllers differ from MPPT charge controllers because they do not control the voltage.

Instead, the voltage of the individual solar panel must match the voltage of the battery it connects to. There is little power regulation, so PWM charge controllers work better with small-to-medium-sized solar power plants.

Inverter

What is an inverter? This part of the solar power plant system connects the battery that stores the power from the solar panels to your home or business using the power.

It’s the bridge between the system’s battery pack and your devices. It converts the battery’s DC energy channels into AC power so you can use it within your business or home.

Batteries

You can use lead-acid batteries or lithium batteries in your solar power plant battery bank in the most basic terms. So how can you tell which type of battery to use?

Lead-acid batteries are the cheapest type of battery for solar panel plants. However, one reason they’re the most affordable to purchase upfront is that they require you to keep a vigilant eye on them so you can spot and fix any signs of corrosion or weather damage. 

The best route to go is lithium batteries. These are much more expensive upfront than lead-acid batteries, but they are superior in durability, longevity, and safety. In addition, you can stack lithium batteries on each other to connect them all regardless of their voltage.

Not so with lead-acid batteries — they are finicky, and stacking them could cause them to stop working. You can also get a full-decade warranty on lithium batteries, which is unheard of for outdoor-use lead-acid batteries.

If this is your first try making a minor scale solar power plant, lead-acid batteries could be the right choice. If you’re just dipping your toes into a new endeavor and want to save cash upfront, they are great starting options.

However, if you are thinking of building a larger-scale, long-term system and have the capital, investing in lithium batteries for your battery pack is the way to proceed.

Solar panel off grid setup with generator infographic 1

What Are the Three Types of Solar Panels?

Before we discuss the components of solar panels, let’s first talk about the different types of solar panels. There are three types of solar panels. They include monocrystalline solar panels, polycrystalline solar panels, and thin-film or amorphous solar panels.

Different-Types-Of-Solar-Panels

Monocrystalline panels

Monocrystalline panels are the purest because they use only a single component. This factor makes them more efficient and more expensive than the other types of solar panels. They can produce more kilowatt-hours of energy more effectively than different styles. 

This solar panel style requires less space and lasts longer, making them a better option for many applications. Monocrystalline panels can last 25 to 50 years longer compared to other alternatives. 

Polycrystalline panels

Polycrystalline solar panels, or multicrystalline panels, are made by combining, melting, and then shaping silicon, and they use with several materials. They are not as efficient as mono panels; however, they are more affordable.

Poly panels are blue and come in uniformly sized rectangular panels, while mono panels are typically black and have rounded corners.

Mono panels are more weather-resistant than their cheaper poly panel counterparts. There are pluses and minuses to both of these main types of solar panels, but what about amorphous solar panels?

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These are the least expensive to purchase. However, they are the least efficient type of the three solar panel varieties. 

Because they are the cheapest, more people and places can afford to use them; however, they need replacing more often, as they use only a light-absorbent film placed over a hard material like glass.

The film absorbs the energy from the sun and then uses that for generating power.

Thin-film solar panels

The third type of solar panel, amorphous or thin-film, is relatively new to the solar panel industry. Even though it looks aesthetically pleasing due to its uniformity, the panels don’t generate as much power as the mono panel or poly panels.

Additionally, the apparatus takes up so much space that these affordable, sleek panels are currently used primarily for industrial and agricultural endeavors. 

Therefore, the room needed to generate large amounts of electricity with thin-film solar panels is expected and available for these large-scale purposes.

However, both the monocrystalline and the polycrystalline are much more heat and light resistant than the cheaper thin-film panels. Therefore, you will mainly find these types in residential or civil settings.

Solar panel inverters

What Are the Components of Solar Inverter? 

What is a solar panel inverter? A solar inverter is vital for the entire solar system to convert energy to use later effectively. Generally, solar inverters will be one of three types, off-grid, on-grid, hybrid, and battery backup inverters. 

No matter which inverter type is in use, they will contain similar components, including: 

  • Capacitor
  • Magnetic Components
  • Monitoring Software 
  • Solid-State Solar Conducting Devices 

Without an inverter, the energy from the sun’s rays cannot convert into a form that we can use for appliances and electronics. 

What Is the Raw Material for Solar Panels? 

Solar panels can incorporate various raw materials for practical power generation. However, the premise remains the same and may include some form of these raw materials: 

  • Sand 
  • Silicon
  • Polymers
  • Glass 
  • Metals 

These common raw materials come at a price and can be costly to manufacture and maintain. Alternatively, organic photovoltaic cells make solar panel manufacturing more affordable with technological advances. 

But what are organic photovoltaic cells? These are solar cells whose absorbing layer uses organic materials such as polymers and organic molecules, unlike the elements gallium or silicon, which are inorganic.

Solar panel house setup with electric car. Infographic

Which Metal Is Used in Solar Panels? 

Solar panels may use various metals to convert the sun’s rays into usable energy, depending on the style. The most efficient metals for solar panel production include: 

  • Copper
  • Silicon
  • Silver
  • Zinc 

Alternatively, some photovoltaic (meaning “solar-powered”) materials can include copper indium gallium selenide, cadmium telluride, amorphous silicon (silicon in non-crystalline form), or organic photovoltaic cells.

All of these materials are cheaper to produce than crystalline silicon. 

Who Makes the Parts for Solar Panels?

As of 2022, most solar panel components are manufactured in China; however, North American companies are rising in the industry, so you don’t have to rely on imported parts for every component.

Canadian and American solar panel part manufacturers include Canadian Solar, Solaria, Silfab Solar, Tesla, GAF Energy, Crossroads Solar, and Next Energy Alliance, among others.

East Asia has been manufacturing solar panel components for decades, but so have some of these companies listed above. However, unless you’re a factory or industrial manufacturer in your own right, it’s challenging to purchase solar panels from these companies yourself.

However, as a private citizen, you can connect with a third-party supplier to purchase US-made (or Chinese-made) solar panels and components or simply have a third-party install the system. These come with warranties and professional expertise.

If you’d like to purchase the materials to build your own solar panel system for your residence, you can still attempt to connect with the manufacturers directly.

However, if you’re looking to get solar panels installed, this is where those third-party companies come in handy.

Highly rated solar panel companies in the US that can install these systems for you include SunPower, Momentum Solar, Palmetto Solar, Tesla Solar, and Blue Raven Solar. Tesla Solar and SunPower are the only firms that service all fifty states. 

General Solar Panel FAQ

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