Intro to Solar

Why go solar? 

There are many reasons why you might want to add solar to your project. While environmental concerns are usually the first reasons to come to mind, going solar can also be practical. This can be the case if your project is meant to create an alternative expression of sunlight. Apart from this, solar power works great for remote monitoring or data-logging devices that are meant to be self-sufficient which is discussed in this Arduino Project on How to Power your Arduino with a Solar Panel.

What is a solar panel and how does it work?

A solar panel is made of thin semiconductor materials that allow for Photovoltaic conversion, which is the conversion of photons from the sun’s rays into voltage that can be used in electronic projects.

The conversion from light to electrical energy occurs by utilizing layers of silicon heated to extreme temperatures by doping them with the chemicals phosphorus and boron; where N type silicon is combined with phosphorus, which provides the negative charge, and P type silicon is combined with boron which provides the positive charge. This creates what is commonly referred to as a P-N Junction. [Yang, 2020] This junction creates a one way flow that allows light to excite the electrons into a higher state of energy, allowing for the conversion of light into electricity. [Peppler, 2014]

Image of a solar panel illustrating the electron flow that occurs between n and p-type silicon, allowing it to power a load

Diagram from Crafting e-Fashion with DIY Electronics

What are some different types of panels?

Some common types of solar panels include those that use monocrystalline silicon PV cells, polycrystalline silicon PV cells, and silicon-based thin-film PV cells. The primary difference between these are matters of cost and efficiency. 

In your projects, consider the size and use cases in determining the best solar panel suitable for you. For more information on how to choose a solar panel, view our post here.


Yang, Jinhuan, et al. Solar Photovoltaic Power Generation, Walter de Gruyter GmbH, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Peppler, Kylie, et al. Soft Circuits : Crafting e-Fashion with DIY Electronics, MIT Press, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central,

PowerFilm List of Products (also has diagrams on series and parallel)