If you are planning to install solar panels on your roof or in your backyard, you might be curious to know how this modern marvel works. Keep reading to learn more about the basics of solar photovoltaic technologies.
What Is Solar Photovoltaic Technology?
This is just a fancy term for solar panels and any other technologies that convert sun energy into electricity to power our daily lives. The word “photovoltaic” consists of the Greek word φῶς (phōs) which translates to “light”, and from “volt”. Volts are units of electromotive force named after the Italian physicist Alessandro Volta who invented the battery.
What Are the Key Components of Solar Panels?
The smallest unit of any solar panel is a solar cell. Together solar cells compose a solar module. An average of 30 modules make a solar system.
How Does a Solar Cell Function?
Each solar cell consists of a special material. This material is known as a semiconductor. It has the ability to conduct electricity. The common semiconductor used in solar cells is silicon. Once silicone absorbs the light, it transfers the energy to electrons that then start flowing, creating a current. Metal contacts—the grid-like lines on a solar cell—help extract the current from silicone or another type of semiconductor and channel it to an inverter.
At this stage, the transformation of the direct current (DC) into an alternating current (AC) happens. AC flows into the electric grid and eventually powers your home’s electrical system.
How Are Silicon Solar Cells Manufactured?
The first step is to refine silicon, producing crystalline silicon. Then slicing blocks of crystalline silicon helps craft wafers. Next, the wafers undergo a dual-sided treatment so that electrical charges are separated. This process creates a diode, which is a component that enables the electrical current to move in only one direction.
How Are Thin-Film Solar Cells Manufactured?
The production process for thin-film solar cells is essentially the process of applying a slender coating of semiconductor material with high light-absorbing properties onto a substrate, which can be glass, plastic, or metal foil. This differs from traditional solar cell manufacturing, which typically requires the creation of crystalline wafers. One notable advantage of this method is the ability to deposit the semiconductor material onto flexible surfaces, making these solar cells cost-effective and highly adaptable.
Where Is the Research Moving?
Scientists are busy developing even more advanced solar cells to boost solar photovoltaic technologies to new heights of efficiency. The emerging types of solar cells include:
- perovskite PV cells, made of methylammonium (MA+) lead (Pb+2) iodide (I-) or MAPbI3
- quantum dots made of tiny semiconductor particles that are only a few nanometers wide
- organic photovoltaics (OPV) that are made with carbon compounds
The growing body of research surrounding solar panels is exciting as it emphasizes the important role that solar panels play today. You can also rest assured that the solar energy trend is here to stay.
At North Valley LLC, we look forward to helping you join the happy community of homeowners all around California who have already transformed their lives with solar power. Contact us today to get started!