How Solar Works

Solar Electric Panels capture sunlight and convert it to clean power. Solar panels (often called modules) are made by combining many solar cells together. When solar panels are strung together in series and combined with other components, they become a solar electric system or solar array. A solar electric system can meet part or all of a home’s electricity needs.

Solar Electricity is the conversion of sunlight into electricity by certain materials that absorb photons of sunlight and release electrons. Electricity is produced when these electrons are captured. This phenomenon was first discovered in 1839, but the first photovoltaic module was not produced until 1954. Now, solar cells may power everything from calculators and remote highway signs to homes, commercial buildings, and large power plants. Solar cells power all satellites in space, making them responsible for the world’s communications products.

Power Produced by a Solar Electric System is measured in watts. Solar panels are assigned a rating in watts based on the maximum power they can produce under ideal sun and temperature conditions. You can use this rated output to estimate the number of panels you’ll need to meet some or all of your electricity needs; however, the exact amount of energy produced by a solar electric system also depends on roof orientation and tilt, as well as other factors such as shading, dust, and system efficiency. The PVWatts Calculator is a useful tool to help estimate the performance of solar installations.

Costs & Incentives
Net Metering
Red Flags for Solar Scams
Choosing a System
Purchasing Solar
Solar Leasing
Community Solar
Installation and Maintenance
Choosing an Installer or Contractor
Questions to ask a solar installer
What should my solar bid include?
How Solar Works
Types of Solar Panels
Types of Solar Electric Systems
Solar Legislation
Reports and Publications
Training Programs
Solar Related Terms
Local Government Resources
Solar Press

Solar Photos

Office of Regulatory Staff
Energy Office
1401 Main Street, Suite 900
Columbia, SC 29201