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How does photovoltaics work?

PV Basics

Everyone’s talking about solar power. Solar modules are increasingly becoming a feature of the roofscapes of our towns and cities, and most people know someone who has a photovoltaics system or they might even have one themselves. But how does photovoltaics actually work?

Solar, photovoltaics and solar heating – What’s the difference?

Solar energy is energy from the sun that can be captured for use in one of two technical applications: solar heating is the generation of heat and photovoltaics is the generation of electric current from sunlight.

How does a photovoltaic system work?

A photovoltaic system consists of two key components: the solar modules and the inverter. The modules are usually sited on roofs, but also in field installations. When sunlight hits the solar modules, it generates electrical direct current that is conducted by cables to an inverter where it is converted into alternating current that can be used in the household or fed into the grid.

Photovoltaic modules vs. solar collectors

Photovoltaic modules consist of small, flat solar cells that are usually made of silicon. Many solar cells will go to make up one solar module. When sunlight hits the cells, it generates a current that is conveyed to the inverter. By contrast, solar collectors used to produce hot water are made up of small pipes in which a fluid is heated up by the sun’s rays. The heat produced is used to generate hot water for domestic purposes or to heat the home.

Photovoltaics for the home

Do you want to use photovoltaics to generate your own solar power?

Photovoltaics for me
couple looks at inverter

The inverter as the heart and brain of a PV system

The inverter is an essential component of every photovoltaic system, because it converts the direct current generated into alternating current that can then be fed into the grid or used in the household. The inverter also shows and stores all the key system data required for yield monitoring and other purposes.

How do you get hot water from photovoltaics?

With solar heating, the power of the sun is used to produce hot water; with photovoltaics, the sun’s energy is used to generate electricity. But, can you use photovoltaics to generate hot water? Yes, you can. For example, the Fronius Ohmpilot allows you to use excess solar power to control the heating elements in a boiler.