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Photovoltaics and Components of Photovoltaic Systems

Photovoltaics (PV) is a technology that converts solar radiation into direct current electricity. It is based on the photoelectric effect. Semiconductor materials are exposed to light and produce small amounts of energy.
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To make efficient use of this effect, certain components are needed to create a photovoltaic system. The power generated by such a system can be used on-site or fed into the grid. 

Components of a Photovoltaic System

PhotovoltaicSource: U.S Department of EnergyCertain components are necessary to make use of photovoltaics. The smallest one is the photovoltaic or solar cell. Most solar cells are made of silicon-wafers or other semiconductor materials.

Several solar cells are electrically connected to each other and mounted in a support structure or frame as a solar panel. The components needed to make a solar panel work are mechanical and electrical connections and mountings and a converter that regulates and modifies the electrical output. If the produced electricity is fed into the grid, a special meter is required.

The installation of a photovoltaic panel may be on the ground, on top of a roof, or integrated into the roof or walls of a building. A number of solar panels are arranged in a solar array. Depending on the planned size of a photovoltaic installation, a solar array can consist of a few solar panels or many for larger dimensions. 

Alternatives to Photovoltaic Panels

Solar panels and arrays are not the only components that can be installed as a photovoltaic system. Other components such as solar tubes or solar shingles use the photoelectric effect to produce power. In regard to efficiency, these components are not as productive as solar panels, and they tend to be more expensive.  

Photovoltaic power can be used for various purposes. It can generate electricity for lightbulbs, household appliances, or even solar air conditioning.

Price of Photovoltaics

In recent years, technology has advanced significantly and the number and manufacturing scale of photovoltaic systems and solar companies has increased. As a consequence, panel prices are continually decreasing. 

Find out how much a solar installation for your home will cost with our free solar calculator.

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Written by: Christian Märtel, Editor
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