Solar Panel Facts


For those wanting to know basic fundamentals of PV systems and arrays, here are a few solar panel facts.

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Here are the basic solar panel facts. To understand photovoltaics, you have to understand electricity. Envision a piece of metal such as the side of a car. As it sits in the sun, the metal warms. This warming is caused by the excitation of electrons, bouncing back and forth creating friction, and therefore heat. Add a mechanism (say a solar cell) to control the flow of electrons and voila! Electricity. Oversimplified, perhaps, but PV boils down to one simple act: the flow of power.

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Now that you know electricity, you can understand how PV power flows. First you have the source of PV power, the sun. It’s abundant, it’s cheap, and it’s everywhere. All you have to do is harness it. Enter solar cells. Capable of generating 50 watt-hours of electric power, they sit in the sun and generate power as they warm—simply, quietly, without moving parts or by-product pollution.

This power then flows through a regulator and into the battery bank. Batteries are the heart of a PV system. They store almost all the power the system delivers. The one drawback to this “power storage” unit is the amount of power loss associated with all batteries—roughly 15 to 25%. They “self discharge” a portion of the power they store; for example, if you charge a battery with 1000 watt-hours, you will only receive 800 watt-hours when discharging.

After a battery is charged, though, power can be used day or night, through sunshine and clouds. DC power (the type of power needed to illuminate a light) can be used directly from the battery, traveling via regulator (to control flow to and from batteries) and a fuse box (for overload protection and safety). AC power (used for heavy-duty items such as a dishwasher) can be accessed by means of an inverter. Simply, the inverter converts DC (battery) electricity to 120 VAC electricity. Now you can operate just about any electrical item in the house by means of PV power!