These days, practically anything can be run on solar power. Calculators, garden lights, road signs and computers. There are even solar powered cars and a solar aeroplane that has flown around the world without landing or needing to re-fuel. The military now have solar tents, that can be erected anywhere with power plugs ready to go.

Technology has moved on so much that now an average sized south facing roof can supply the power for an average family home. So what is it? And how does it work?

Solar cells are also known as photovoltaic cells (PV's). Photo meaning light, and voltaic meaning electricity. A group of PV's mounted into a frame are called a module, which is also known as a solar panel. Many modules mounted together are called a solar array.

Pv cells are produced from a semi conducting material, commonly silicon. When solar radiation hits the solar panel, it makes the electrons inside the solar panel move freely. Inside the units, there are magnetic conductors that "make" the freed electrons move in a specific direction, thus making a current.

With current being produced, electrical contacts attached to the panel can then be used to allow the current to be taken from the panel to external sources. Your house!!

How it works