What does PV or Photovoltaic mean ?

Photovoltaic, often shortened to PV relates to a technology that converts solar (sun light) into electrical energy. This is distinct from the process of solar water heating which is growing in popularity in Ireland due to the grant assistance available from the state. The term PV is derived from the photovoltaic effect of certain semi conductors such as silicon that are capable of generating an electrical charge when they are exposed to the energy of the sun.

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Typically the power from each of these solar cells is small, so they are connected together to form a solar module or solar panel with a higher output. These PV solar panels can then be connected together to form a solar array. This is typically what you will see installed on the roof of a building and is used to generate power that can supplement or replace the energy that is purchased from the utility grid.

Solar panels have traditionally been manufactured from amorphous silicon, which is grown as a large single crystal. This is a reasonably expensive process when considered in the volume required to supply the world’s rapidly growing demand for solar panels. The trend over the last decade or so has been for solar panels to fall in price, though this has slowed more recently due to a worldwide shortage of processed silicon due to the increased demand for photovoltaic solar panels.

Some new technologies have emerged more recently that allow the semi-conducting element of the solar cell to be printed in a continuous process. This is a considerable breakthrough and will ultimately drive the price of solar panels down, though the technology is still new and developing. This new technology known generally as “thin film solar” has allowed engineers to incorporate the solar photovoltaic elements into building, cladding and even glazing materials.

A figure worth noting is that at the equator, approximately 1000 Watts of energy falls upon every square meter of the Earth’s surface in the form of pure sunlight.

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