As the world continues seeking cleaner and more sustainable forms of energy, solar has emerged as a leading candidate for powering the future.

Photovoltaic (PV) technology, in particular, has become increasingly popular due to its ability to convert sunlight into electricity.

But how does this technology work? This complete guide will delve into the inner workings of solar PV and explore the various components of solar energy systems.

From the basics of the PV cell in a solar PV system to the intricacies of inverters and battery storage, we will provide an overview of how it works and its potential for the future.

So whether you are a homeowner considering solar panels or simply curious, read on to discover everything you need to know about how solar PV works.

How Does Solar PV Work?

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Solar PV technology is based on converting solar energy directly into electrical energy using specialised solar PV panels.

These panels comprise a solar cell, also known as a PV cell, designed to absorb photons and free electrons, thus producing direct current (DC) electricity.

By connecting multiple solar panels in a system and then wiring them in series or parallel, solar PV systems can produce electricity to power homes and businesses.

The solar industry is rapidly growing, and solar PV cell technology is becoming an increasingly popular option for those seeking a clean and renewable energy source.

Overall, the solar system can offer a clean and renewable source of energy that has the potential to significantly reduce our dependence on the national grid and fossil fuels.

If you want to know more about the work, check out our article on solar photovoltaic systems.

Main Components of Solar PV System

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A PV system has several key components that convert solar energy into usable electrical energy.

It comprises a solar panel of photovoltaic cells made of semiconductor material, such as raw silicon or gallium arsenide.

A PV cell, or solar cell, is composed of two different layers of silicon. They have been carefully and specially treated, allowing them to let electricity flow through them in a specific way.

It is responsible for absorbing sunlight and converting it into direct current electricity. To increase power output, cells are electrically connected to a photovoltaic module.

This photovoltaic cell can be combined into PV modules and an array, just one part of a PV system.

To make this electricity usable, it is sent through an inverter that converts it into alternating current (AC) electricity used in homes and businesses.

A generation metre is often included in the PV system to keep track of the amount of electricity generated.

With the help of a charge controller, any more electricity can be stored in a battery for later use when sunlight is unavailable.

If you want to know more about building and installing your system, check out our other articles on solar PV installation course and how to build a photovoltaic solar panel!

How Solar Cells Generate Electricity

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Solar cells, commonly found in photovoltaic (PV) panels, generate electricity through the photovoltaic effect. This effect is what allows sunlight to be converted into an electrical current!

When light shines on the semiconductor, the electric field across the junction between these two layers causes a good flow of electricity, which ends up generating direct current (DC).

The solar spectrum, the range of electromagnetic radiation emitted by the sun, includes wavelengths absorbed by the solar cells.

The absorption of solar radiation by the solar cells causes electrons to be knocked loose from their atoms, creating an electric current.

This electric current can be harnessed as solar electricity and power homes and businesses.

The more the sun shines on the solar panels, the more light energy will be absorbed, and the more solar electricity

How Solar Panels Capture Sunlight

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Solar panels work through a direct conversion of sunlight into an electrical current. PV technology, which is used in solar panels, allows for conversion.

The PV cells within the solar panels are made up of semiconductor materials that can convert light energy into electricity.

When sunlight shines on the solar panel, the PV cells in the electric field begin absorbing sunlight. Solar thermal energy is then used to release electrons.

These electrons are then captured by metal contacts in the cell and sent through an external circuit, converting energy into electricity.

The amount of electricity generated depends on several factors, including the amount of the sun’s energy available, the photovoltaic cell’s efficiency, and the solar panel’s size.

If you are curious about the size of panels, check out our article on solar photovoltaic panel sizes.

Types of Solar PV Cells

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Solar PV technology has evolved rapidly in recent years, leading to several types of systems and cells that vary in efficiency and cost.

Monocrystalline Solar Cells

Monocrystalline solar cells are the most efficient and expensive type of solar cell, made from a single, high-purity silicon crystal with a high-efficiency rate of 15-20%.

Polycrystalline Solar Cells

Polycrystalline solar cells are cheaper than monocrystalline cells. However, they have a lower efficiency rate (13-16%) but are ideal for larger installations prioritising cost-effectiveness.

Thin-Film Solar Cells

Thin-film solar panels are less expensive than others and are made from amorphous silicon.

They are less efficient (typically 7-13%) but are suitable for building-integrated photovoltaics and portable consumer unit due to their ability to be made into different shapes and sizes.

Advantages of Solar PV

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Solar PV technology has numerous advantages over traditional fossil fuel-based electricity generation.

Cost Savings

These systems can help households and businesses save money on electricity bills by generating enough energy to power their needs.

Some can also provide additional cost savings by heating water and reducing reliance on electric power from the national grid.

Environmental Benefits

Solar technology helps combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.

Long Life and Durability

Solar systems have a long lifespan and require minimal maintenance, making them a stable and reliable source of free electricity.

Disadvantages of Solar PV

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While the technology has numerous advantages, some disadvantages should be considered.

High Installation Cost

One of the main disadvantages of this technology is the high initial installation cost. A consumer unit could set you back thousands of pounds.

Check out our photovoltaic solar panel’s cost article to know more about the cost factor.

Dependence on Weather

These systems depend on sunlight to generate electricity, making them less effective during cloudy weather or darkness.

This can decrease energy production and reliability and require backup power sources to ensure a continuous energy supply.

Limited Efficiency

They have limited efficiencies, with most systems using only 15-20% of solar energy to generate electricity. This means large installations are required to generate enough electricity.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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Here are some frequently asked questions about solar technology and its implementation.

What Is the Difference Between Solar and Photovoltaic?

Solar refers to any method of harnessing energy from the sun, while photovoltaic specifically refers to converting sunlight into electricity using semiconductor materials.

In other words, photovoltaic is a type of solar power technology.

Is Photovoltaic Energy Efficient?

Photovoltaic technology is not as efficient as one might think. Commercial solar panels can only convert up to 20% of available solar energy into usable electricity.

However, research is ongoing to develop more efficient photovoltaic materials and technologies.

Who Uses Solar Photovoltaics?

Various individuals and organisations, including homeowners, businesses, and governments, use solar photovoltaics.

They are particularly popular in regions with high levels of sunshine, where they can provide a reliable and cost-effective source of electricity.

What Are PV Cells?

PV cells, or photovoltaic cells, are electronic devices that convert sunlight directly into an electrical current.

Multiple PV cells can be combined to create a solar panel, generating enough electricity to power homes, businesses, and even entire communities.

How to Clean a Solar Panel?

To clean a solar panel, you should first turn off the power supply to the system. Next, use a soft, non-abrasive brush or cloth to remove dirt or debris from the panel’s surface.

Rinse the panel thoroughly with water and allow it to dry completely before restoring power to the system.


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PV systems provide a sustainable and reliable source of energy that can be harnessed from the sun’s natural light through the photoelectric effect.

By converting direct sunlight into usable DC electricity, these systems can power homes and businesses with clean energy with minimal environmental impact.

While there are some drawbacks to using a solar photovoltaic system, the benefits of reduced energy costs and a more sustainable future make them a viable and attractive option for many.

As technology continues to improve, the efficiency and affordability of solar systems will only continue to increase, paving the way for a more sustainable and energy-efficient future.

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