Introduction to Photovoltaic (PV) Systems

Growing concerns for the depletion of the world's natural resources and our future energy supply has increased the need and development of solar power. The most critical advancement in the development of solar technology has been Photovoltaics, a solar energy system that uses semi-conductors to directly convert solar radiation into electricity.

Photovoltaic Facts:

  • The invention of capturing solar power was first introduced by Alexandre Becquerel in 1839. He is the father of the “photovoltaic effect”, which is the ability to create an electrical current directly from the sun.

  • Solar panels have dropped significantly in price in the last decade, over 80%.

How Photovoltaic Systems Work

Photovoltaic (PV) systems are composed of a large number of cells (typically made of crystalline silicon) arranged in formation on a metal frame, the entirety of which is known as a module.

When exposed to sunlight these cells produce a small direct current of electricity, and when used en masse will generate a large amount of electrical power with no moving parts, noise or emissions. The amount of electricity generated is dependent on several factors: the size and arrangement of the PV system, the PV module array, and the efficiency of the electrical components used to covert solar energy into electricity usable by your home or building (called inverters).

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How Photovoltaic Energy is Distributed

Most electricity is distributed through an electrical utility provider, which is the company that produces and/or distributes electricity to consumers in a region or state. The electricity is distributed along the electrical grid-the utility’s network of conductors, substations, and equipment that distributes electricity from its central hub to the consumer. The grid can span hundreds of miles from the power plants to thousands of homes and businesses.

Owning a Photovoltaic System

By having a PV system, you don’t have to rely on your utility company if there is a system distribution break down along the grid. Electrical outages, though rare, do still occur under certain circumstances such as overloaded systems or severe weather events.

Owning a PV system allows you to create your own power to supply your entire house and lifestyle without being tied to the issues that can occur with utility grids. You only require the utility company to activate the system and only need to use the grid until your system is actively producing the energy output your household or business requires. Throughout the year your energy consumption changes and what energy you don’t use from the PV system will be banked in the utility grid. This can then be used during night hours or during times of the year when the sun isn’t as intense or if shading occurs due to weather.

Facts About PV Systems

  • Multifunctional Land Use: PV systems can cover a wide area (1 Megawatt of Power= 6-8 Acres of Land). While they generate energy from the sun, they can also provide shade for parking structures and/ or shade crops that need to be protected from direct sunlight.

  • Photovoltaic Cells Work On Cloudy Days: Contrary to popular belief, PV systems work while the sun is blocked by clouds, as the rays still penetrate and are then absorbed by the PV cells.

  • Sunlight for an Hour = Sunlight for a Year: It’s calculated that the amount of sunlight on the earth within an hour’s time can provide enough energy for the world for an entire year.

  • PV Cells Face South in the USA: In order to get optimal sunlight, PV cells should face south in the USA, as the equator lies south of the 50 states where the sun is most intense around the globe.

  • The Sun is Powered by Hydrogen: The sun is currently powered by constantly burning hydrogen, and when it runs out of hydrogen, it will start to consume its supply of Helium.