Photovoltaic cells, also known as PV or solar panels convert the energy from the sun to electrical energy. When sunlight (specifically photons) hit a semiconductor, commonly silicon, electrons are excited and leave the orbit of their atom. The organised movement of these ‘free’ electrons in a circuit produces direct current (DC) electricity. Household solar panels then feed this electricity into an inverter that can convert the power to alternating current (AC) that can be used by our appliances. When these panels are organised in a series, electricity is produced to power our homes and businesses.
Solar panels unlike other forms of power generation can be located at our homes. We call this type of generation ‘decentralised’, that is rather than being located far away requiring a lot of poles and wires to connect, they can be located right at your home where you use it. Other forms of electricity such as coal powered turbines, wind and wave are centralised and require transmission lines to deliver local substations that then ‘step down’ to households. Households now own and maintain their own electricity, and feed this through to their neighbours and industry through the very distribution network that delivers them electricity.
Western Australia has a large number of clear sunshine days compared to other places around the world. Similar to states like Queensland and South Australia, our community has been keen to use our access to the sun to generate our own electricity. Many households generate for their own use but also connect through the distribution network to other households that use the electricity they are not using at the time.