Solar technology can take sunlight and change it into energy using photovoltaic (PV) solar panels or by concentrating the solar radiation using special mirrors. Individual particles of light are called photons. These are tiny packets of electromagnetic radiation that have different amounts of energy depending on how quickly they move. Photons are released by the sun during the process of nuclear fusion when hydrogen is converted to helium. If photons have enough energy, they can be harnessed to generate electricity.

PV panels are made from individual PV cells. These cells contain materials called semiconductors which allow electrons to flow through them. The most common type of semiconductor used in PV cells is crystalline silicon. It is relatively inexpensive, abundant, and lasts a long time. Out of all of the semiconductor materials, silicon is also one of the most efficient conductors of electricity.

When photons with a lot of energy come in contact with semiconductors, they can knock electrons loose. These electrons produce an electrical current that can be used for power or stored in a battery.

Most energy produced by solar panels is sent into the electrical grid to be distributed to places that need electricity. Even private rooftop solar panels send extra electricity back into the power grid. Battery storage tends to be expensive, and selling excess electricity back to electric companies is the most cost-effective way to produce solar electricity at the moment. 

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