Photovoltaic (PV) Panels
PV panels are the starting point of any PV system. Here, sunlight is converted into electricity. The following components comprise a typical PV panel:
- Squares of photovoltaic material
- A strong backing material (usually a plastic)
- A tempered glass front
- A metal frame.
Photovoltaic materials have the property that when light is shined on them, they generate an electrical current. The most common photovoltaic material used in PV panels today is silicon, the same material found in computer chips and electronic devices. Chemicals are added to the silicon to enhance its ability to generate electricity when exposed to sunlight.
The silicon is formed into thin squares that are attached together by small wires to form an assembly of squares. This assembly of squares is sandwiched between the backing material and glass, then surrounded by a metal frame, to create a PV panel. The backing material and tempered glass serve to protect the photovoltaic material from the elements. Today's PV panels are much stronger than home windows, and have survived hurricane-force winds.
Maryland's house uses 51 BP Solar 4175 panels, each generating 175 watts of electricity. Doing a little math on a sunny day, our array is capable of generating 8,925 watts of electricity.
For more information on PV panels and BP Solar's product line, please visit their website.
Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Website