Solar panels work by allowing photons, or light particles, to hit atoms, which in turn release electrons and actually create a current of electricity. These particles create an electric field, which is key to generating usable electricity. The panels are able to do this by having silicon and other materials, such as boron and phosphorus, that create the positive and negative charge to create an electric field.
Now that the panels have created electric currents, that energy needs to be converted into usable electricity that homes and businesses can use. This is done through the inverter. The inverters that are most commonly used are microinverters and string inverters, most of which are grid-tied. The electricity is created in the solar panel photovoltaic cells and flows through wiring and other conductive material, known as “balance of system” (BoS) equipment. This is a solar term of all other materials needed in an array outside of the traditional panels, inverter, and racking. Once the electricity flows through the wires and reaches the inverter, the inverter then takes the current form electricity, which is Direct Current (DC), and turns it into grid-ready Alternating Current (AC) electricity. There are a number of products that can accomplish this in a variety of ways. For example, as mentioned previously, there are microinverters that accomplish the DC to AC conversion on the back of each individual panel. So instead of having one centralized inverter, you have a fully functioning array on each panel. There are also string inverter systems that handle all of the conversion in one central location. There are of course positives and negatives for each approach. The best way to know what is best for any specific product would be to have your property evaluated by a solar professional.
The difference between DC and AC electricity is simple: it is all about the direction the electrons flow. This crucial aspect of the solar array, the inverter, is what makes running homes and businesses on solar possible. The inverters commonly used today can not only power the home with clean, renewable energy, but can also send any excess energy not being used by the home back to the grid. This helps utility companies meet their customer demands for power, resulting in a win-win for everyone.