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What is “Photovoltaics ”, and what is it known and useful for?



In the “Commercial Solar” space a particular system is widely used to catch the solar arrays to produce solar energy in return, it is commonly known under the name “Photovoltaics”. This system has been around for a very long time since the second half of the 20th century, serving a good number of companies and homeowners around the world. But its adoption by consumers lagged, more precisely at the beginning of its emergence, as oil utilization to produce energy has been since the industrial revolution of the 1850s the key source of energy to produce electricity all around the world.



Coming later after the explosion of oil usage, “Commercial Solar”, like all businesses looking to acquire customers, has more to prove to get accepted and adopted by energy consumers. However, over the past two decades, we observed a better leaning of energy consumers towards “Commercial Solar”. And homeowners especially are more interested in being educated about this solar system and are inquiring about the pillars that make it works so phenomenally. One of the key elements that play a strong role in the existence of “Commercial Solar” is “Photovoltaics”. The role of “Photovoltaics” is so predominantly vital in the “Commercial Solar” space that it’s worth the time to learn more about it and gain a deeper knowledge about its applications, impacts, and benefits.



But before we jump into the details of our study, it is important to get a solid definition of the two terms that are most involved in our topic. They are “Photovoltaics” and “Commercial Solar”.


Photovoltaics



is the conversion of light into electricity using semiconducting materials that exhibit the photovoltaic effect, a phenomenon studied in physics, photochemistry, and electrochemistry. The photovoltaic effect is commercially utilized for electricity generation and as a photo sensor. The power system is controlled using power electronics (Wikipedia). The photovoltaic effect was first noted by a French physicist, Edmund Becquerel, in 1839, he discovered that certain materials would produce small amounts of electric current when exposed to light.



Commercial Solar panels are an array of multiple photovoltaic (PV) solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity. Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels comprise solar cells made from silicon that is constructed with a positive layer and a negative layer, which together create an electric field. Multiple cells make up a solar panel, and multiple panels or modules can be wired together to form a solar array. Commercial Solar panels employ a large number of solar arrays to generate more electricity (The Economic Times).


Photovoltaics composition.


Photovoltaics are believed to have a lifespan of 25+ years producing more than 80% of their original power, this is due to the quality of materials they are made up of. They are essentially made up of a semiconductor which is to say that they can conduct electricity better than an insulator but not as well as a good conductor like a metal. The main role of a semiconductor is to absorb the light’s energy and transfers it to negatively charged particles in the material called electrons. Below are some of the most used semiconductors for photovoltaic cells.


1. Silicon

Silicon is, by far, the most common semiconductor material used on solar cells, representing roughly 95% of the modules sold today.


2. Thin-Film solar cell

A thin-film solar cell is made by depositing one or more thin layers of PV material supporting material such as glass, metal, or plastic. Two main types of thin-film photovoltaics are known: cadmium telluride(CdTe) and copper indium gallium arsenide(CIGS).


3. Perovskite solar cells

perovskite solar cells are a type of thin-film cell. Perovskite cells are built with layers of materials that are printed, coated, or vacuum deposited onto an underlying support layer, known as the substrate.




Applications of Photovoltaics systems


Photovoltaic systems can be used to supply electricity to a wide variety of settings, especially where oil electricity is not fairly possible to extend or just isn’t convenient. Here are some of its most useful applications according to research conducted by the NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) Transforming Energy organization.



1. Solar Farms

Many acres of PV panels can provide utility-scale power from tens of megawatts to more than a gigawatts of electricity. These large systems, using fixed or sun-tracking panels, feed power into municipal or regional grids.


2. Remote Locations

It is not always cost-effective, convenient, or even possible to extend power lines to locations where electricity is needed. PV can be the solution for rural homes, and villages in developing nations, lighthouses, offshore oil platforms, desalination plants, and remote health clinics.


3. Power in Space

From the beginning, photovoltaics has been a primary power source for Earth-orbiting satellites. High-efficiency PV has supplied power for ventures such as the International Space Station and surface rovers on the Moon and Mars, and it will continue to be an integral part of space and planetary exploration.


This same research stated that PV can also be used in transportation, providing auxiliary power for vehicles such as cars and boats. Lightweight PV can also conform to the shape of airplane wings to help power high-attitude aircraft. Photovoltaics are also exceptional in providing power for building-related needs.


photovoltaics potentiality in the commercial solar industry


In a study effected by the “Center For Sustainable Systems” of the University of Michigan, such potentialities were observed in PV cells.


1. If co-located with load centers, solar PV can be used to reduce stress on electricity distribution networks, especially during peak demand.


2. Though most commercial panels have efficiency from 15% to 20%, researchers have developed PV cells with efficiencies approaching 50%.


3. Assuming intermediate efficiency, PV covering 0.6% of the U.S land area would generate enough electricity to meet national demand.


Photovoltaics, solar industry economic and environmental impacts


Solar panels installment takes a good investment to start with, but the cost-effectiveness is worth it over the lifespan of their 25+ years. The adaption of solar panels has greatly impacted the U.S citizen’s economy with more than $33 billion of private investment in the American economy. PV adoption lowers utility bills, provides federal and state incentives, serves as an emergency help when natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes lead to power outages, and last but not least, helps create jobs, as of 2018, the solar industry hired over 220,000 people.


Though the semi-conducting processing involves hazardous chemicals, the commercial solar industry has not yet proven to be dangerous to nature to the extent that it would raise questions related to health issues. The major concern so far is depending on the solar panel manufacturer and country of origin, these chemicals may or may not be disposed of properly.




Photovoltaics is a powerful electrical system that emerged from the commercial solar industry, serving as an alternative to oil to produce electricity. It is considered a clean energy production with a lifespan of 25+ years, it uses a process called semiconducting that produces electricity when exposed to sunlight. The most used semiconductors are silicon (95% of cases), thin-film solar cells, and perovskite solar cells. The utilizations of photovoltaics are especially important in settings where oil electricity is less convenient, such as solar farms, remote locations, and power in space.



The solar industry greatly impacts the U.S economy, hiring thousands of workers and bringing billions of dollars of private investment into the American economy. The future of photovoltaics is very bright, numerous studies have been conducted and are being made to get a solid estimation of its potentiality by 2050.

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