How Does A Solar PV System Produce Electricity?

Solar PV (photovoltaic) system, is how solar panels produce energy. Photovoltaic is when light converts to electricity by using a material that is semiconducting and exhibits the photovoltaic effect. In solar panels, this material is usually two silicon plates that are sandwiched together which create one of the small solar cells that are put together in a solar panel to create an array.

How does a Solar PV System Work?

The solar panel in a solar PV system uses the sun’s rays, which are composed of photons (particles of light), to knock the electrons free from atoms. By doing this a flow of electricity is generated and the amount of electricity we need to generate is created by having many photovoltaic cells per solar panel.

Most methods of producing power require the generation of electricity to be a far distance from the area that consumes the power. The electricity travelling along these high tension lines has an energy loss because of the resistance in the line itself. The further the distance, the greater the energy loss.

With solar panels, that distance is removed, and generation and consumption are a lot closer, therefore limiting the energy loss.

Most solar panels are will come with a 25-year warranty which is given as a performance guarantee. The warranty protects the solar panels at 90% of rated power output for 10 years and 80% for up to 25 years.

Components of a Solar PV System

The Panel: There are two types of panels you can buy; mono-crystalline or poly-crystalline. Both will get the job done and have the same price tag and size. The main difference being that mono-crystalline has the edges cut off and is a single silicon crystal, whereas the poly-crystalline is made from many silicon fragments that are melted together. Mono-crystalline is slightly more efficient.

The Inverter: Inverters highly depend on the size of your PV system. There are various sizes of inverters, but when we are talking about commercial use, the inverters are usually approximately the size of a shipping container. If you have smaller systems, they can be closer to the size of a backpack. The inverter will convert DC electricity into AC electricity. AC is what everything in a common household uses and each solar panel will produce 230V of AC power and that is needed to run household breakers. On most occasions, the inverter will last for about 10 -15 years as each inverter consistently needs to convert the power from DC to AC and will eventually wear out.

Racking/Mounting Equipment: The final main component of a PV system is the racking/mounting equipment. This equipment is used to securely mount the solar panels to your roof supports.

Battery Storage: Battery storage is useful when energy consumption is higher than the production of your PV system or if you want to store energy for use later in the day. The warranty on these battery systems is about 10 years, so if anything goes wrong in that time frame, you are completely covered

Energy Production and Efficiency in Solar PV System

The average size of solar panels is 65 inches by 39 inches. These modules can be wired in series or parallel, meaning that we can increase the voltage when wiring them in series or capacity when wiring them in parallel. The solar panels measure the amount of electricity they are generating in Watt-hours. We can calculate the amount being generated by studying peak sun hour charts that allow us to see when the solar panels are exposed to 1000W/m2 which is what the solar panels are rated for.

If you’re wondering if a Solar PV system can work in your climate, the next blog will go over exactly how solar panels work in the colder, harsher climates.

About the Author

Oriana Cordido has a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in International Relations and Economics. She is currently responsible for providing knowledge and awareness about solar energy, and creating solar proposals for customers wanting to reduce their energy bills. You might be reading this blog if you're curious about how your business can save money. If this is something you've ever thought about, she's your go-to girl!

She has considerable experience in the field of social entrepreneurship as she was the Team President and Co-Founder of Enactus UNB which is an international non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring students to improve the world through entrepreneurial action. ​ ​

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