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A photovoltaic array (also called a solar array) consists of multiple photovoltaic modules, casually referred to as solar panels, to convert solar radiation (sunlight) into usable direct current (DC) electricity. A photovoltaic system for residential, commercial, or industrial energy supply normally contains an array of photovoltaic (PV) modules, one or more DC to alternating current (AC) power converters (also known as inverters), a racking system that supports the solar modules, electrical wiring and interconnections, and mounting for other components. Optionally, a photovoltaic system may include any or all of the following: renewable energy credit revenue-grade meter, maximum power point tracker (MPPT), battery system and charger, GPS solar tracker, energy management software, solar concentrators, solar irradiance sensors, anemometer, or task-specific accessories designed to meet specialized requirements for a system owner. The number of modules in the system determines the total DC watts capable of being generated by the solar array; however, the inverter ultimately governs the amount of AC watts that can be distributed for consumption. For example: A PV system comprising 11 kilowatts DC (kWDC) worth of PV modules, paired with one 10-kilowatt AC (kWAC) inverter, will be limited by the maximum output of the inverter: 10 kW AC. A small PV system is capable of providing enough AC electricity to power a single home, or even an isolated device in the form of AC or DC electric. For example, military and civilian Earth observation satellites, street lights, construction and traffic signs, electric cars, solar-powered tents, and electric aircraft may contain integrated photovoltaic systems to provide a primary or auxiliary power source in the form of AC or DC power, depending on the design and power demands.
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Large grid-connected photovoltaic power systems are capable of providing an energy supply for multiple consumers. The electricity generated can be stored, used directly (island/standalone plant), fed into a large electricity grid powered by central generation plants (grid-connected or grid-tied plant), or combined with one, or many, domestic electricity generators to feed into a small electrical grid (hybrid plant). PV systems are generally designed in order to ensure the highest energy yield for a given investment.
The Solar Panel Installation industry has sprinted ahead in recent years, driven by rapid technological developments, falling solar panel costs and favorable government policy. In the coming years, demand for solar panel installation is forecast to continue surging. The sun produces enough energy daily to supply 10,000 times the world’s electrical needs. Since Bell Laboratories developed the first silicon solar cell in 1954, the industry has been on a long path to growth and acceptance. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, solar-produced energy accounted for 0.11 percent of the electricity generated in the United States in 2012. The price of photovoltaic-produced electricity -- the type of solar power system used for residential installations -- is expected to drop to 0.067 cents per kilowatt hour by 2015 and fall into line with the price of electricity produced by natural gas generators during normal peak times. Solar prices have dropped from $3.25 per kilowatt hour in 2006 to $0.80 in 2012. The U.S. installed 1,306 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaics (PV) in the first quarter of 2015 to reach 21.3 gigawatts (GW) of total installed capacity, enough to power 4.3 million American homes.
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This page was last updated on April 1, 2020