The conversion of sunlight into electricity, either directly using photovoltaics (PV) or indirectly using concentrated solar power (CSP). PV converts light into electric current using the photoelectric effect.
‘Photovoltaic’ translated literally means ‘light electricity’. Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels contain material that converts solar radiation directly into electricity. Unlike fossil fuel or wood, there is no middle man for solar energy storage. And there are no complex systems with moving parts that require constant upkeep. It is advanced technology that converts sunlight directly into electricity.
Sunlight is made of photons, or small particles of energy. These photons are absorbed by and pass through the material of a solar cell within the solar photovoltaic panel. The photons ‘agitate’ the electrons found in the material of the photovoltaic cell. As they begin to move, they are ‘routed’ into a current. This, technically, is electricity – the movement of electrons along a path. The greater the intensity of the light, the greater the flow of electricity.
Solar panels are made up of individual cells, each generating a little power independently. These cells are electrically connected to each other and mounted in a support structure or frame – each collection of cells connected in this way is known as a module or panel, and have non-reflective glass fronts.
Panels can be mounted on a rooftop or, in the case of grid connected solar farms, mounted on simple frames. Wires conduct the electricity from the farm. In both cases the electricity generated can be exported to the grid.