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What Are Photovoltaic Solar Panels and How Do They Work?

In the solar world, you hear the term “photovoltaic” quite frequently, but what does it mean? This blog post aims to explore the purpose and function of photovoltaic (PV) devices and what they do for your solar panels!

A History of the Photovoltaic Effect

The photovoltaic effect was first observed in 1839 by Alexandre Edmund Bequerel and became a significant scientific interest throughout the early 20th century. In 1954, the first solar PV device was introduced. It was the first photovoltaic device that provided enough electricity to actually be used. By 1958, solar cells were used in small scale applications.

In 1970, the interest in solar cells increased due to the energy crisis. People wanted solar cells to produce electricity in their homes and businesses. However, prices were extremely high and made large-scale applications impractical.

Through the years, the solar industry has refined the technology, making photovoltaic devices more practical.

Photovoltaics

So, what is photovoltaics?

To put it simply, photovoltaics is the technology used to convert light to electricity. The devices generate electricity directly from sunlight.

Photovoltaic devices work by an electronic process that occurs naturally in certain materials, called semiconductors. Solar energy frees the electrons in these materials. The structure of the semiconductors forces these electrons to travel through an electrical circuit. This powers electrical devices, or sends electricity to the grid.

How Do Photovoltaic Panels Work?

Photovoltaic panels are made up of small photovoltaic cells connected together and made out of semiconducting materials. The cells are small, but when combined together in solar arrays, they become very efficient. The sunshine on the cells creates electricity.

There is a common misconception that photovoltaic solar panels and thermal solar panels function the same, but they actually have different purposes. Unlike solar thermal systems, which are used to produce hot water, PV panels capture the sun’s energy and convert it to electricity. This is why solar panels produce the most electricity in strong, direct sunlight. The electricity produced is what is used to power your home!

Now that you know what photovoltaic panels are, it’s time to sit back and let the sun do the work!

Source: https://www.seia.org/initiatives/photovoltaics

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