What is ‘photovoltaic technology’?

‘Photovoltaic technology’ is the terminology used to describe the individual bits of hardware that convert solar energy into usable power, generating electricity from sunlight, photo meaning light and voltaic meaning electricity. At the heart of photovoltaic (PV) technology is a semi-conductor material which can be adapted to release electrons, the negatively charged particles that form the basis of electricity.  The most common semi-conductor material used in photovoltaic cells is silicon, an element found mostly in sand. There is no limitation to its availability as a raw material; silicon is the second most abundant material in the earth’s mass.

Photovoltaic panels are made up of a series of cells. These cells have two layers of semi-conductors, one positively charged, and one negatively charged.  When light from the sun, consisting of photons, hits the semi-conductor, it causes electrons to bounce free from the tightly packed atoms with the solar cells, generating a flow of electricity in the form of DC (Direct Current).  DC is not suitable to power home appliances and as such this must be fed into a PV inverter, which is a device designed to convert generated DC into usable AC (Alternating Current) where it can then be supplied to appliances inside the home or back to the grid.

The greater the intensity of the light, the greater the flow of electricity.  A photovoltaic system does not need bright sunlight in order to operate.  It can also generate electricity on cloudy days.  Due to the reflection of sunlight, days with slight cloud cover (only when the sun itself is not obscured by clouds) can even result in higher energy yields than days with a completely cloudless sky.

PV technology has been advancing rapidly in recent years due to continued investment and interest in the sector, which has led to better quality technology for lower prices.  Photovoltaic technology is the perfect way to generate cleaner energy in both domestic and commercial environments.


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