What is Solar PV?

Photovoltaic (PV) devices generate electricity directly from sunlight via a process that naturally occurs in some materials. Within a certain class of crystals, electrons are freed when tiny packets of light from the sun — called photons — are absorbed. These electrons can be induced to travel through a circuit as electricity.

Solar cells are made from semiconductors such as silicon. They are designed with a positive and a negative layer to create an electric field similar to that of a battery. Configuring many cells in a circuit is the basis for a solar PV panel.

Solar PV systems are groupings or “Arrays” of modules wired together and to other electrical devices, to produce, isolate, convert and distribute electrical power.

Solar PV systems can be part of a total approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect our environment and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Photo: mono-crystalline solar cell, single cell, solar pv, solar energy Figure 1.
Photo: amorphous solar cell, single cell, solar pv, solar energy Figure 2.

Figure 1. Mono-crystalline solar PV cell
Cells are grouped together to make a solar module.

Figure 2. Amorphous solar PV cell
Flexible cells are arranged in materials for applications on roofs and other products.

Grid-Connected Solar PV System

Whether a small 1–kilowatt residential system, or large 1–megawatt industrial system, the basic system components are the same.

Graphic: Grid-connected Solar PV System
Graphic: Grid-connected Solar PV System

Installing a Typical 10kW Solar PV System is like:

  • Planting more than one acre of trees per year.
  • Driving a car 10,000 miles less per year.
  • Burning 50 barrels of oil less per year.
  • Emitting 5 tons of Carbon Dioxide less per year.
  • Emitting 40 tons of Sulfur Dioxide less per year.