How Does Solar Energy Work? | Harnessing Solar Energy


We all know that sunlight can burn our skin and bleach our hair, but how does solar energy really work and how can we harness its power? 

Solar energy can be converted from simple sunshine to electricity that can run our house. By transitioning to solar you could save thousands on simple electricity costs you may not have even noticed you have been accumulating! So how do we capture and use solar energy?

How Does Capturing Solar Energy Work?

Solar energy is the process of converting the light from the sun into electricity.How-much-do-household-appliances-cost-you-per-year-infograph

This electricity can be used to power our homes, or it can be exported to the electricity grid at a feed-in tariff price.

But how do we capture this thing called solar energy?

Solar energy can be captured, converted and utilised all by installing solar panels on your roof. Solar panels are made up of silicon photovoltaic (PV) cells. When sunlight hits these cells the solar PV absorbs the sunlight and electricity is produced.

If you are ready to install solar, Solar Market connects you with reputable solar installers within your region. Get 3 free quotes and start saving!

How Can Solar Energy Be Used?

The type of electricity solar panels produce is Direct Current (DC). Direct Current electricity unfortunately is not suitable to be used within our homes. So, how we change the current to something we can use?

All solar panel systems come with an Inverter. The job of an inverter is to change the Direct Current electricity produced from our solar panels and change it into an Alternating Current (AC). Alternating Current is what we use to power our homes and everything in our day to day lives.

Now that your electricity is ready for use, it needs to be directed to a switchboard where it then can be sent off to all of your appliances in your home. Although the switchboard will always use your solar energy first, it has the ability to access extra energy from the grid in the event that your solar production isn’t enough.

How Can I Sell My Unused Solar Energy?

When a solar panel system is installed in your home a bi-directional meter, or a utility meter, needs to be installed as well (your electricity supplier will do this for you).

This meter is used to record all power you draw from the grid and any power you export back to the grid. This is known as net-metering.

excess-solar-energy-exportationAny unused solar energy that has been exported to the grid will earn you credit on your next electricity bill. This is called a feed-in tariff (FiT). Feed in tariff rates vary from state to state and energy provider to energy provider.

Exporting unused solar energy to the grid and gaining feed in tariff rates can save you thousands of dollars over the course of your solar systems life span.

How Do I Install Solar So That I Can Utilise Solar Energy?

Interested in how you can use solar to power your home? We have provided you an estimated price list per solar panel system size.

System Size Price Estimates
1.5kW system $2,510 – $4,860
3kW system $2,550 – $6,950
4kW system $3,190 – $7,930
5kW system $3,120 – $9,510
6kW system $3,470 –  $10,990
7kW system $5,160 – $10,990
10kW system $7,660 – $14,100
  • Updated November 2019 

Now that you know everything about how solar energy works, Solar Market can match you with 3 CEC accredited local solar installers so you can choose the right solar option for you. We provide a free unbiased service, that connects you with the right information and the right installers to help you make the most of solar energy! 


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Beginners Guide to Solar Power

If you’re considering solar for your property or just looking to maximise the savings for your solar system, download a FREE copy of our "Ultimate Guide to Solar Power in Australia - 2021 Edition".

Become an expert and better understand the ins and outs of solar power and solar PV systems for your property.

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Understanding Batteries

Off-Grid Systems

For some households a battery system can be of great benefit and minimise a home’s reliance on the grid. However, it’s important to understand for a battery to be useful your solar system needs to be generating excess energy for the battery to store, which you can then use at night or when the sun is not out.

When selecting a battery, you’ll want to invest in a system that is most suited to your home and can drive the best return on investment (ROI). Despite a larger upfront cost, a higher quality battery may significantly increase your ROI.

    Battery systems start from $6,000 and costs can vary greatly based on the following factors:

  1. Cycle Life-Time

    The number of times a battery can fully charge and discharge.

  2. Battery Power (kW)

    How fast it can be charged or discharged.

  3. Storage Capacity (kWh)

    The maximum amount of energy a battery system can store.

  4. Battery Management System (BMS)

    An electronic ‘smart’ system that gathers data and manages the battery ensuring it does not overload or operate outside of its safe functioning zone..

  5. Inverter

    Battery systems require their own inverter if your solar system does not have a hybrid inverter.

  6. 'All-In-One Unit’

    A system which includes the battery, BMS and an inverter all in one unit.

  7. Warranty

    Length of time or cycles the battery system is under guarantee.

  8. Blackout Protection/Backup

    It’s important to note this is not a common feature of a battery system and could cost thousands of dollars to include. Blackout protection not only requires additional components but also a specialised installation and rewiring. For grid-connected homes, the cost for blackout protection can outweigh the benefit.

Additionally, if your purpose for adding battery is to go Off-Grid and become completely independent from the grid you will need to ensure your solar system can generate enough energy to power your home and your battery system is large enough to store this energy. For homes in metro areas going Off-grid is not cost effective and is only recommended for those in remote areas with limited access to the grid. Off-grid solar systems with battery start at approximately $30,000.

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