Solar panels collect solar radiation from the sun and actively convert that energy to electricity. Solar panels are comprised of several individual solar cells. These solar cells function similarly to large semiconductors and utilize a large-area p-n junction diode. When the solar cells are exposed to sunlight, the p-n junction diodes convert the energy from sunlight into usable electrical energy.
The energy generated from photons striking the surface of the solar panel allows electrons to be knocked out of their orbits and released, and electric fields in the solar cells pull these free electrons in a directional current, from which metal contacts in the solar cell can generate electricity. The more solar cells in a solar panel and the higher the quality of the solar cells, the more total electrical output the solar panel can produce. The conversion of sunlight to usable electrical energy has been dubbed the Photovoltaic Effect.
The photovoltaic effect arises from the properties of the p-n junction diode, as such there are no moving parts in a solar panel.