Energy from the sun is gathered by solar collectors, usually made of silicon alloys. The energy that is absorbed makes electrons move faster, and leave their positions. When many electrons, each carrying a negative charge, travel toward the front surface of the cell, the resulting imbalance of charge between the cell’s front and back surfaces creates a voltage potential like the negative and positive terminals of a battery. When the two surfaces are connected through an external load, electricity flows. To generate more electricity, groups of photovoltaic (PV) cells, or arrays, are used.
The energy captured by the PV cells is stored in a battery. DC current flows from the battery; it can power objects that run on batteries. Alternately, the DC current can be routed to an inverter, which converts the DC voltage into AC voltage which in turn can power objects that use electricity, such as lights and appliances.
In your home or business, you can reduce your electricity bills by drawing power from the sun rather than from the electric company. If you generate more power than you need, the electricity can be sold back to the electric company, reducing your energy cost even further.
British Columbia Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources