Launch solar energy infographic

How Solar Power Works – Photovoltaics Explained.

Stage 1: Sunlight

We all know the Sun’s light contains energy. We’ve been burned by it at the beach. It’s made our eyes tear up when we stared at it for too long. Certain matericals such as crystal and silicon can actually absorb this energy — a property known as the “photoelectric effect” that causes them to absorb photons of light and release electrons.

Stage 2: Solar Cells

For most of us, this next stage is most easily explained as “magic.” A solar cell is a thin semi-conductor wafer specially treated to form an electric field. It’s positive on one side and negative on the other and electrical conductors are attached to either side to form a circuit. Thist circuit then captures the released electrons in the form of an electric current.

Stage 3: Photovoltaic module (AKA Solar Panel)

A module is a collection of cells that are electrically connectd to one another. These cells are mounted into a support structure or frame. These modules are designed to supply electricity at a certain voltage, such as a common 12 volt system. The solar power produced is directly dependent on how much light strikes the modules.

Stage 4: Creating usable solar power

Photovoltaic panels produce direct-current (DC) electricity, but most of us need AC (alternating-current) to power our everday gadgets and lights. An inverter is therefore required to convert DC to AC. Don’t worry. It’s not a catch. Once set up, a solar system can cleanly and renewable power something as small as a light bulb or as large as an entire house or car.

Solar cell, module, array, system, what’s the difference?

The difference is mostly scale, each is a part of something larger, like Russian dolls of the clean energy world.

  1. Solar Cell
  2. Solar Module, aka panel, consists of 72 solar cells
  3. Solar Array, group of panels in series
  4. Solar System, one or more arrays connected together

Anatomy of a solar cell

  • Layer 1: Metal conductor strips
  • Layer 2: Anti-reflective coating
  • Layer 3: 1st silicon/thin film layer
  • Layer 4: 2nd silicon/thin film layer
  • Layer 5: Metal backing

The Rise of Solar Power in the U.S.

The U.S. photovoltaic market has grown at an average annual rate of 69% since 2000, rising from 3.9 megawatts (MW) to 1555 MW in 2010.

See the list of the World’s Largest Solar Energy Plants.

As solar power becomes more accessible to the world, countries seek to provide power plants which produce in excess of 100 megawatts.

Topaz Solar Farm, is a proposed $1 billion solar photovoltaic power plant, to be built by First Solar Inc. It’s location is Carrizo Plain,a large enclosed plain app. 50 miles long and up to 15 miles across in San Luis Obispo County, California, about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Once constructired it will be able to output a whopping 550 megawatts of power and would put the USA, and the Sunshine State, on the map as having on eof the largest solar parks in the world.

[How Solar Power Works Infographic]