Photovoltaics (PV for short) is the technology that converts light directly into electricity. It all starts with the basic solar cell that may be made from many different materials. The most popular material is silicon. There are many processes that may be used (See our article on Solar Cells) and substantial development work is in process worldwide on methods that increase efficiency (higher rate of conversion of sunlight), reduce costs, and increase the lifetime of the solar cells.
A single solar cell is not very useful, the voltage is low and the solar cell can easily be damaged by the environment. See our article on Fundamentals of Photovoltaic Systems for further details on making solar cells into useful items.
A major feature of photovoltaic systems is the ability to produce electrical energy without any need for fuels or causing polution. The costs of the produced energy are hard to quantify as most of the costs are up front capital costs and the amount of energy produced depends on the site weather and several installation design elements.
How to Use Photovoltaic Technology
The practical use of photovoltaic technology ranges from very small to very large and close to home and far away.
There are many reasons to use photovoltaic technology to meet energy needs. The technology is scalable from very small (watches) to very large (utility scale plants covering square miles), allowing unique needs to be met and improving the environment when compared to conventional sources of energy. There are many benefits from financial to environmental, see our article on Environmental Benefits of Renewable Energy.
Educational & Commercial PV Systems
Some Historical information
Some nice to know information
More Technical Information
For a more technical introduction to small utility connected PV systems, the interactive PV-Explore presentation presents some details. This is slightly dated (2012 state of the art), but describes some of the components. At present it is not integrated with the rest of this website, use your back arrow to return to this page. PV-Explore- Understanding and Troubleshooting Grid Connected PV systems.
There is a good general technical article on Engineering.com that is worth a review:
Batteries and PV Systems
Government & Legal Information
For more information, follow the topics below.
Some interesting uses of PV:
1. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). 2012. . Volume 1, pg. 210.
2 Machol, Rizk. 2013. Environment International 52 75–80.
3 Environmental Protection Agency. 2010. Chapter 5.