More facility managers are installing solar panels in their buildings as a way to implement sustainability practices into their business practices. Solar panels are used to convert sunlight into energy as a way to lower the amount of electricity used through utilities. The sunlight is turned into electricity with two scientific methods, the photoelectric effect, and the photovoltaic effect. The photoelectric effect is when the sunlight is absorbed by the solar panels and turns into energy then the photovoltaic effect turns that energy into electricity.
There are several components to solar panels before sunlight gets transformed into electricity. Solar panels consist of solar cells, backsheet, encapsulation, frames, junction box and connectors. The solar cells are what convert the sunlight into energy meanwhile the backsheet, encapsulation and frame are what hold the solar cells together. The junction box and connectors are the electrical wiring throughout the panels. There are other pieces that help connect the new electricity to your building and its appliances and help keep the solar panels safe, like various inverters, rapid shutdown device and batteries. The rapid shutdown device ensures the solar panels are safely turned off in case of an emergency and the battery will help store some of the electricity.
Having solar panels does not mean that the building or facility is off grid. It’s common for buildings to use solar panels as a backup power or uninterruptible power supply for emergencies like natural disasters or blackouts. However, in some cases it can be used to go off-grid and act as a microgrid. When the electricity is gathered by the solar panels, it can be transferred to a battery and all the electricity in the building will be taken from said battery. In California, there are some prototype communities that use solar panels as microgrids and aren’t connected to utility companies for electricity.