The quality and efficiency of the materials used in solar systems has improved in recent years, but solar energy systems still use the same basic process where Photovoltaic (PV) cells convert sunlight into Direct Current (DC) electricity.

When the sun is shining, electricity travels from the panels through wires into a piece of equipment called an “inverter”. The inverter converts the DC electricity produced by the panels into the type of power your house uses (called Alternating Current, or AC). After the inverter converts the electricity , it then travels through a dedicated wire into your home’s electrical panel. From that point, all unused electricity generated by your solar panels travels back through the power lines and into the utility company’s power grid.

The Anatomy of a Solar Energy System


Solar panels are the most obvious part of the system. They sit on your roof and collect the unlimited energy supplied by the sun every day.


The inverter converts the energy collected by the solar panels and turns it into usable electricity which powers your home. Inverters can be a separate piece (as shown here) or they can be micro-inverters which are part of each individual solar panel.


The meter is what measures your electricity usage. When using solar energy your meter will frequently run “backwards” as you sell your excess electricity back to the local utility company.


The power lines and the whole huge system which supplies electricity to your entire region. Your home is still connected to the grid for times when your home needs electricity that you are not currently producing (mostly at night).