Introduction to Solar PV

How does Solar Power generate electricity?

A standard solar panel consists of a layer of silicon cells, a metal frame, a glass casing and various wiring to allow current to flow from the silicon cells. Silicon is a nonmetal with conductive properties that allow it to absorb and convert sunlight into electricity. When light interacts with a silicon cell, it causes electrons to be set into motion, which initiates a flow of electric current. This is known as the “photovoltaic effect,” and it describes the general functionality of solar panel technology.

The general photovoltaic process, as described above, works through the following steps:

  • The sun shines on the solar panels generating DC electricity.
  • The DC electricity is fed into a solar inverter that converts it to AC electricity.
  • The AC electricity is then supplied to whatever load has been connected to it.

Solar Cells can generate electricity whenever the sun shines and even in overcast weather.

What is a Solar PV System?

A photovoltaic system, also solar PV power system, or PV system, is a power system designed to supply usable solar power by means of photovoltaics. It consists of an arrangement of several components, including solar panels to absorb and convert sunlight into electricity, a solar inverter to change the electric current from DC to AC, as well as mounting, cabling and other electrical accessories to set up a working system. It may also use a solar tracking system to improve the system’s overall performance and include an integrated battery solution. PV systems convert light directly into electricity and shouldn’t be confused with other technologies, such as concentrated solar power or solar thermal, used for heating and cooling.

PV systems range from small, rooftop-mounted or building-integrated systems with capacities from a few to several tens of kilowatts, to large utility-scale power stations of hundreds of megawatts. Nowadays, most PV systems are grid-connected, while off-grid or stand-alone systems only account for a small portion of the market.

Operating silently and without any moving parts or environmental emissions, PV systems have developed from being niche market applications into a mature technology used for mainstream electricity generation.