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Solar Electricity - How It Works

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How Solar Cells Work - The Internal Electrostatic Field

Silicon atoms have four outer electrons, phosphorous atoms have five, and boron atoms have three. Silicon makes up most of a solar cell, but some boron atoms are present throughout the cell, and a very thin layer of phosphorous-doped silicon is created at the front surface of the cell.

Some of the extra outer electrons from the phosphorous-doped layer cross over and fill the holes in the boron-doped layer. This permanent displacement of electrons creates a fixed electrostatic field just under the front surface of the solar cell. This fixed electric field could never happen in a metal, as the electrical imbalance would dissipate quickly. Because silicon atoms hold their electrons relatively tightly, the imbalance is maintained in the silicon crystal structure. This internal electrostatic field makes the solar cell work.

Converting Sunlight to Electricity

At the atomic level, light is composed of energy particles called photons that flow from the sun and strike the solar cell. As each photon strikes a silicon atom, it ionizes the atom by transferring its energy to an outer electron, allowing it to break free of the atom. The energy of the photon is converted into electron movement energy called electric current.

Another reason to use silicon in solar cells is because the energy needed to ionize a silicon electron matches the typical energy of photons coming from our sun. If the photons had less energy (if our solar spectrum were more red or infrared), they would not have enough energy to free the electrons, and if the photons had more energy (if our solar spectrum were more blue or ultraviolet), the energy beyond that necessary to free the electron would be lost as heat and wasted. [More...]


ONAAT SAVINGS ARE DRAMATIC


Our neighborhood program's installed price of $5.49/watt is 15% to 30% less than the prices typically charged for a comparable system in New York. You can see how this translates to your bottom line after you apply the Utility Rebate, Federal Tax Credit of 30% and the NYS Tax Credit of 25% in the Sharp Sample Systems Below.

Sharp 4.230 KW Solar System:

Typical New York ONAAT
Price: $27,500 - $34,000 $23,000
Net Cost 1 : $ 9,000  - $13,000 $ 6,000

1 Net Cost After Utility Rebate and NY State and Federal Tax Credits)

Sharp 6.345 KW Solar System:

Typical New York ONAAT
Price: $41,000 - $51,000 $35,000
Net Cost 1 : $15,000 - $22,000 $10,000

1 Net Cost After Utility Rebate and NY State and Federal Tax Credits)

Sharp 9.400 KW Solar System:

Typical New York ONAAT
Price: $61,000 - $75,000 $52,000
Net Cost 1 : $25,000 - $35,000 $18,000

1 Net Cost After Utility Rebate and NY State and Federal Tax Credits)

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