How Are Solar Panels Made?

Solar panels are growing in value and access throughout the U.S. That is a good thing because of the benefits solar panels offer to the environment. If you are considering solar panel systems and unsure how they work or how they are made, we can help you. 

SmartSolar is happy to provide you with all the information and insights you need to determine if solar panels are right for you. Let’s start by offering more insight into how solar panels are made.

How Solar Panels Are Produced

Several components go into solar panels. Each solar panel photovoltaic cell (solar PV) will include solar cells, EVA, glass, a backsheet, and a frame. All of these components are put together to create solar panels designed to meet your home’s energy needs.

There are three types of solar panels in production today that are commonly used for residential solar panels. These include:

  • Monocrystalline solar panels
  • Polycrystalline solar panels
  • Thin film solar panels

The biggest differences in these products occur in the solar panel manufacturing process. The differences here are based on the solar panel materials: Mono-silicon, polysilicon, and amorphous silicon are the most common ingredients used.

So, how are solar panel systems made using these materials?

Raw materials are gathered

The first step is to gather all the raw materials needed—most commonly sand. Most solar panels are made from silicon, which is obtained from the second most plentiful natural substance in natural beach sand. 

The process of converting it into high-grade silicon is a bit more complex, though. This is an energy-intensive process, and it can be an expensive process to produce the high-quality silicon needed for solar panels. 

The quartz sand must be placed in an arc furnace, and very high temperatures are used to melt it.

Formation of ingots

Most often, silicon is collected in solid rock form. Then, these rocks are melted down together at high temperatures. When that happens, ingots are created, usually in the shape of a cylinder. 

When silicon is melted like this, all of the atoms align and create the desired shape. A material called boron is added during this process to help give the silicon the positive electrical polarity it needs.

This is also where there are differences in the types of silicon matter. For example, in mono-crystalline cells, a single crystal of silicon is used, which allows for a higher efficiency when solar energy hits it, producing electricity. That is why mono-crystalline solar panels tend to cost more.

Polysilicon solar panels are made using several silicon crystals together. You can tell these are made like this because they tend to have a shattered glass look to them due to the presence of numerous silicon crystals.

Once the cylindrical ingot cools down, it is then necessary to grind and polish them. This creates a flat side on the panels.

Creation of wafers

The next step is the creation of wafers, in which the silicon ingot is sliced into thin disks. The wafers are no thicker than a sheet of paper. During this process, the surface becomes very shiny, which allows it to reflect the sunlight. An anti-reflective coating is added during this step to reduce that reflective quality to avoid loss of solar radiation.

Solar cells

The next step of the process allows for the conversion of the wafer into a solar cell that can then produce electricity. The wafer is first treated, and then metal conductors are placed on it, creating a matrix-like grid on the surface. The coating encourages the absorption of sunlight. 

A thin layer of phosphorus is diffused over the surface of the wafers, allowing for a negative electrical orientation. This gives it the negative charge it needs to create an electrical current.

Creating a solar panel

The next step in the manufacturing process is to link the silicon wafers in grids together to create a solar panel system. Most often, these solar panels will have numerous solar cells on them, and each of these solar modules is designed to meet the needs of the home to ensure the best ability to convert sunlight.

Answers to Common Questions About Solar Panels

We often receive questions about solar panel systems and solar panel installation. Here is some information to consider.

Where do the materials for solar panels come from?

The most common raw material in solar panels is natural beach sand. What makes solar cell technology so interesting is that the photovoltaic cells are made from natural materials that are then designed to convert sunlight into usable AC electricity and DC electricity.

Is solar panel production bad for the environment?

There are a lot of components that go into the production of solar panels. This includes the high temperatures needed in the electric arc furnace and the need to use fossil fuels to reach that level. However, solar modules are not bad for the environment if they are used properly, and they are recyclable. 

As improvements in this process occur, there will be improvements in every stage, including the silicon wafer production and power output, making it even more environmentally friendly.

Learn More About Solar Homes and Solar Cell Technology

Let SmartSolar help you determine the best solar solution for your home. Contact us today to learn about increasing efficiency and how we can save money for your solar energy needs.