While current solar technology is still fairly new, the power of the sun is no modern revelation. The sun is the most powerful and consistent source of energy available to humans.
The first solar device to produce a notable amount of electricity was created in 1954 at Bell Labs. Just several years later, the technology was being used in a few select projects, but would soon explode in interested by the 1970s due to current energy concerns. Unfortunately, the high price of PV production prevented more large-scale use of solar technology. Thanks to significant research and developments, modern solar technology is becoming more and more affordable for average homeowners and businesses across the globe.
What You Need to Know About Photovoltaic Technology
So what does modern solar technology look like today? Photovoltaic, or PV, devices harness sunlight and turn it into electricity. The key? The materials used to make solar arrays or panels are natural semiconductors. When the electrons in them are struck by photons (energy of the sun), they are freed up from their atomic bonds, allowing them to travel through an electrical circuit to provide useable electricity. This can then be used to power electronic devices or sent to a local electricity grid.
Essentially, the uses of solar energy can reach beyond just a single home and stretch out to an entire community, even if some of the homes in that area don’t have solar panels. From homes to commercial businesses, solar panels can power both personal devices and large-scale facilities.
Common Types of PVs
- Crystalline silicon (c-Si) – Accounting for about 90% of the globe’s PVs, c-Si is extremely popular due to it’s durability and efficiency. Other variations include monocrystalline, polycrystalline and string ribbon PVs.
- Thin-film PV – Though less efficient than traditional c-Si arrays, these panels are more affordable to produce, thus creating a fast-growing market for cheaper priced solar panel systems.
- Concentrating PV – These panels are typically seen in vast desert areas, utilizing lenses and mirrors to reflect the power of the sun in a more concentrated manner onto highly efficient cells.
- Multi-junction / tandem cells – These specialized solar cells are typically reserved for specific projects that require lightweight material and extremely efficient production, making them a prime choice for satellites and military uses.
Where PV Technology Is Going
While having a solar panel system installed on a home seemed like a great luxury a decade ago, the dropping cost of PV has made solar more and more accessible to homeowners across the U.S. The industry has seen a great demand for more sustainable and renewable energy options, driving up manufacturing and pushing for improved technology and more efficient materials. Though the U.S. is the fourth largest market for PV installations, it is still behind other smaller countries that aren’t as dependent on fossil fuels. The more the U.S. and other major countries adopt this technology, the more it is likely to develop.
Questions? Reach out to our Orange County solar company for helpful answers.