PHOTOVOLTAIC + SOLAR PANELS
Photovoltaic comes from the words photo, meaning "light" and voltaic, meaning "from electricity". A Solar Photovoltaic (PV) system uses the sun's light energy or photons to produce electrical current. In a typical Solar PV Panel, light energy from the sun strikes a silicon semi-conductor dislodging electrons causing them to flow in the PV panel which, in essence is the definition of direct current electricity.
So in simple terms, Photovoltaic (PV) are solar cells. The solar cell is the basic building block of a PV system. Photovoltaic systems are like any other electrical power generating systems. The only difference is just the equipment used is different than that used for conventional electromechanical generating systems.
Although a solar PV array produces power when exposed to sunlight, a number of other components are required to properly conduct, control, convert, distribute, and store the energy produced by the array.
Most solar PV panel systems today are “grid connected” meaning that any excess electricity generated by the residential Solar PV System is transmitted back to the electrical grid and used by you as you need it. Conversely, when the sun is not out, the home draws electricity from the grid.
SOLAR CELLS AND PHOTOVOLTAIC PANELS
The basic unit of any solar panel design is the solar cell, which usually consists of one or two layers of silicon-based semiconductor wafers. Dozens of these PV cells are packaged together into solar modules, which in turn are packaged into solar panels that are mounted on a rooftop and arranged to maximize their hours of exposure to direct sunlight. Because the electricity generated by all those solar cells is direct current (DC), it is then sent to an inverter that transforms the power into the same alternating current (AC) used by the appliances in your home and the local utility electricity distribution grid. Increasingly, these inverters are getting "smart," providing data monitoring for solar performance and other grid integration services.
REDUCING YOUR ENERGY COST WITH ROOFTOP SOLAR PV PANELS
Understanding that solar PV panels work with your existing electricity service instead of replacing it completely is key to understanding the economics behind the solar boom. Solar panel prices have plummeted in recent years, as the industry achieves greater and greater economies of scale — much like the production of computer chips, which makes sense since both technologies rely on silicon-based semiconductors. These declining costs for solar panels are a big reason why solar PV is everywhere these days, whether as part of your solar-charging backpack or huge power plants in the desert.
The home solar boom isn't just about the price of the panels themselves though – it's also about the availability of solar financing that allows homeowners to pay for those solar panels (and their installation) in regular installments over a long period of time, instead of paying for everything up front. These payments are usually lower than what they pay for the equivalent amount of electricity from their utility. Thus, instead of paying one big utility bill every month, you pay a smaller combined amount from the payments on your solar system plus a much lower utility bill.