Fossil fuels have been our energy partners for much of the 20th and 21st centuries. But now we are seeing a revolution in alternative energies that are clean, cheap, and sustainable. Solar power is an important part of our sustainability operations, and the sun is a major help in powering our facilities.

But how do solar panels work? What makes this technology unique and revolutionary in the energy industry? Put on your sunscreen, because this is going to require a bit of science exposure.

What is a solar panel?

Solar panels are composed of photovoltaic cells. Photovoltaic cells use what is known as the photovoltaic effect, which is a fancy way of describing what happens when light hits two joined materials — usually a metal and a semiconductor — generating an electric force between them.

In most solar panels, the photovoltaic cells are made of “doped” silicon (or silicon with additives in it). Next up, we will see how these cells react with Mr. Golden Sun to make electricity happen.

How do they work?

Usually one layer of a silicon wafer is doped with phosphorous and another is doped with boron, creating a positive and negative charge in each one. The creamy filling in the middle will be our electricity. Once a photon in sunlight strikes the layered wafer, an electron is knocked free, creating the tiniest unit of electricity. Do this across a large surface, and you have an energy source!

Mercer’s solar commitment

Mercer Foods is committed to creating a more sustainable, healthy planet, and one major part of that commitment is our choice to power some of our operations with solar power. Usually 15 to 20 percent of our operations are powered by solar power. On some days, we can even get up to 60 percent. We had a vacant lot that was prime for a sustainable energy source, and we made use of it.

If you would like to find out more about how we use solar power, or about what sorts of freeze-dried products we have to offer, get in touch with us or ask us questions and leave comments on Facebook or Twitter.