How Solar PV Works

Solar PV is a renewable energy system that uses the photovoltaic modules on your roof to convert light into electricity. It is a combination of two words - ‘photo’ meaning ‘light’ and ‘voltaic’ from the word ‘volt’ (a unit of electrical force) named after the Italian Physicist, Volta.

Central to PV technology is silicon, (usually crystalline silicon) a material used in semi-conductors that can be adapted to release electrons, the negatively charged particles that form the basis of electricity. As silicon is a common element of sand, it is one of the most abundant and readily available resources on Earth.

The PV cells consist of two layers of semi-conductors, one positive and one negatively charged, which generate an electrical charge (DC – direct current) when exposed to direct light.

The PV panel is made up of either mono-crystalline cells or poly-crystalline cells consisting of two or more layers of semi-conducting silicon, chemically treated. These chemicals react upon daylight, known as a photoelectric effect, absorbing photons of light and releasing the electrons, allowing them to flow freely creating an electrical field across the layers. The greater the light, the greater the flow of electricity.

The PV cells contain an electric field, forcing the electrons to flow in a certain direction. This is known as a current and can be drawn off for external use. This current, together with the cell’s voltage (the result of its built in electric field(s)) defines the power or wattage produced by the solar cell. Connected electrically, the cells are protected and encased within a glass frame – hence a solar panel.

The direct current (DC) is then fed into an inverter which changes it into usable alternating current (AC) for use around the home.

Did you know?

The energy output of a 1 KW solar energy unit is roughly equivalent to the burning of 77kg (170lb) of coal and 136kg (300lb) of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere.

Solar PV Panels being installed by CEC Solar
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