Solar Panels Explained

The sun is the most powerful energy source we are currently able to access. In fact, the earth can absorb more energy in just one hour then the world uses in an entire year.

With recent advances in solar technology, solar street lights are now a viable option in the UK. They can be used to improve public safety and can radically reduce installation costs for local authorities.

Here’s our rundown of everything you need to know about solar panels for street lighting.

What are Solar Panels?

Solar panels are devices that convert light into electricity. Solar panels are made up of lots of smaller solar cells. These cells are spread over a larger area to provide enough power.

Each solar cell is basically a sandwich made up of two slices of semi-conducting material, usually silicon.

How do Solar Panels Work?

Put simply, solar panels work by allowing photons (particles of light) to knock electrons free from atoms. This generates a flow of electricity. This is known as the photovoltaic effect.

The photovoltaic effect works through the following steps.

  1. The silicon in the photovoltaic solar cell absorbs solar radiation.
  2. When the sun’s rays interact with the silicon cell, electrons begin to move creating a flow of electric current.
  3. Wires capture this direct current and feed it to the rest of the unit.

Solar Panel Efficiency Explained

Solar panel efficiency is shown in %. It’s a measure of how much sunlight a solar panel can convert into usable electricity.

As a rule of thumb when purchasing solar street lights; the higher percentage efficiency the panel is, the higher quality the unit is.

Types of Solar Panel

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Made of monocrystalline silicon, this type of panel can be recognised by its uniform dark look and rounded edges. Thanks to the silicon’s high purity, this type of panel has high efficiency rates.

Compared to other panel types currently available, monocrystalline panels have a higher power output, occupy less space and last the longest.

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

This type of panel has square cells and a blue, sometimes speckled look. Polycrystalline solar panels are made by melting raw silicon. This is a faster and cheaper process then the one used for monocrystalline panels.

This results in lower cost lighting units. However, the cost saving is offset by lower efficiency. Polycrystalline panels have a shorter lifespan and are more effected by hot temperatures.


Solar CPD Training

This online CPD course is designed for lighting engineers, contractors, designers and architects. You will leave the course with a firm grasp on the different components of a solar street light, how they work and how best to make use of solar technology.

Solar Install Savings Calculator

This tool can be used to compare installation costs of  wired and solar lighting schemes and to calculate the installation cost savings available by using solar technology.

Solar Yearly Savings Calculator

This tool makes the business case for solar lighting by estimating the yearly and lifetime cost and emissions savings permitted by choosing solar lighting units instead of mains wired units.