Solar PV Systems and The Technology Behind Them

solar pv

Solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity is produced by converting energy from the sun with solar PV cells. The cells are solar panels that are composed of two pieces of clear glass with a back-sheet sandwiched between the glass and the three pieces are laminated together. Only very small amounts of electricity can be produced by a single solar panel and in order to increase the amount of electricity that can be produced, many panels are mounted together. This configuration of connected solar panels is called a solar array.

In addition to increasing the number of solar panels, greater amounts of electricity can also be produced by increasing the amount of sunlight that reaches the solar array. In the southern hemisphere, arrays are mounted on a northern facing surface. Solar PV arrays are mounted to face south in the northern hemisphere. This maximises the amount of sunlight that will reach the solar panels. Arrays are also mounted in clear areas where they are not shaded by trees, buildings or any other objects. The roof is usually the ideal location for a solar array.

Solar PV technology allows electricity to be produced near the point of use so that property owners can be independent of public utility grids. Solar arrays convert radiation from the sun into direct current electricity. Direct current can be used for outdoor lighting, motion detectors, security cameras, electric fences, pumps and any electronic devices that use small but constant amounts of electricity. This is also the form of electricity that is used in any device that also runs on batteries. Direct current is efficient for cell phones, lap tops and electric cars.

Alternating current is the standard for household electricity. The direct current produced by solar panels is converted to alternating current with a device called a solar inverter. The solar inverter is generally located in attics near the solar PV panels or it may be installed near the fuse box, central to the building’s electrical wiring. Alternating current runs through the fuse box and then is distributed throughout the building.

Solar PV often produces more energy than is required at the property it serves. This extra electricity can be stored in large back up batteries and used during the night when the solar panels are unable to produce electricity. Excess electricity can also supply the public electricity grid. In many regions, property owners are able to receive payment for their surplus electricity by selling it to a public utility company.

Solar energy is extremely safe for the environment. Most of the world’s electricity is produced through nuclear energy, by burning fossil fuels or by damming rivers to create hydroelectric dams. Solar power does not emit pollutants, damage ecosystems nor produce radiation. Along with wind energy, solar power is generally considered to be a safe and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional electricity sources.

Solar energy also has the advantage of being extremely low cost. After the solar panels are installed there is no cost to creating electricity from sunlight. Solar PV power is therefore ideal for impoverished regions or areas where electricity is difficult or expensive to produce.

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