Unlike the power that you use in a standard household outlet, solar panels are rated by the amount of direct current they are able to produce. This DC energy is then converted into the alternating current, the AC power, that is used in homes and business.
The actual amount of energy a solar panel is able to produce is dependent on three specific, but variable factors.
- The efficiency of the solar cell.
- The size of the solar panel.
- The amount of sunlight that directly hits the panel.
A typical solar panel produces about 200 watts of electricity when all factors are operating at full efficiency, though size will still affect the overall levels of power that will become available. For the average installation with 25 panels, this would allow for an output of 5 kilowatt hours.
What Is the Challenge of Using Solar Panels?
Because solar panels only generate power when there is sunlight or heat from the sun available to them, homes and businesses that are using panels must have a way to store the energy that has been collected. The cheapest and easiest solution for this is a battery, especially for those who wish to stay connected to the standard grid.
Then, if the solar panels generate more power than can be used and stored, the overflow of power goes back into the grid. This creates the opportunity for a service called “net metering,” which compensates homes and businesses for the extra power being produced. Your installer or local utility can tell you more about what local options may be available to you.
Did You Know Solar Panels Offer a Variable Output?
Solar panels actually produce different levels of power throughout the day, based on the positioning of the sun. When you see the wattage rating for a solar panel, that is generally referred to as the “peak output” under optimal conditions. In the morning and evening, when the sun is lower in the sky, the solar panels may only produce 50% of its overall peak rating.
So in the example above, with 25 panels installed, that would create an output of 2.5 kilowatt hours in non-peak times. Panels also generate more power in summer because of the extended amounts of sunshine that are available.
This means every panel offers a variable experience, but can be compared through peak efficiencies. That way you’ll know how much energy that solar panel can produce.
Crystal Lombardo is a contributing editor for Vision Launch. Crystal is a seasoned writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience. She has been an editor of three popular blogs that each have had over 500,000 monthly readers.