How Does Solar PV energy work?

With Load shedding in full swing in South Africa, home solar energy systems have become a viable option for many home owners. This article give a basic breakdown to help you understand the basics of solar PV.

Solar Cells

Several photovoltaic cells are assembled together to form a solar panel. The photovoltaic effect is what allows these cells to turn sunlight into usable energy. These cells have a typical lifetime of 20–30 years and do not require any kind of fuel to function.

Solar Panels & Modules

A solar module is made up of a collection of photovoltaic (PV) cells that have been put together. The panel that you are accustomed to seeing is actually the module. It can have anywhere from two to two hundred cells built together, and they are protected from the elements by being housed in tempered glass and aluminium.

How do they work together?

Just like batteries, individual cells can be connected in either a series or parallel arrangement to produce a greater range of voltages and amperages. For example, connecting in series four batteries with a voltage of 1 volt and a current of 1 amp will result in a total voltage of 4 volts, but the current will not change. On the other hand, connecting four 1-volt/1-amp cells in parallel will keep the voltage at 1 volt while producing 4 amps of current. To calculate the watts that are being produced, simply multiply the amperage by the wattage (in the example given above, this would be 4 times 1). The term “parallel wiring” refers to a configuration in which two or more electrical components, such as cells or wires, are linked to one another in such a way that their positive and negative terminals face one another. In order to connect cells in series, you must first connect the positive terminal of one cell to the negative terminal of the next.

Do solar panels come in different shapes and sizes?

Modules can be manufactured in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, depending on their intended use. Panels are available in a variety of typical rectangles, triangles, foldable configurations, and even rolls. Because of this, they are suitable for use in a diverse range of applications, ranging from electric cars and space stations to boats and recreational vehicles.

What is a solar aray?

Solar arrays are formed by the combination of individual modules. An array is a collection of modules that have been combined into a single unit and are designed to handle a specific amount of electrical load. You have surely seen that the majority of arrays are mounted on the tops of houses. Due to the orientation and positioning of these arrays, they are intended to produce a predetermined quantity of electricity over the course of one year.

What is the purpose of an inverter?

Inverters were briefly discussed earlier; in essence, they are devices that “create waves.” They are able to convert DC power flowing at a steady stream into AC electricity with waves. There are a few distinct categories of inverters, each of which generates a certain form of wave. As a result of the inverter’s ability to generate step changes in the current, modified sine wave inverters produce electrical flow that is analogous to a series of connected staircases. Inverters that generate pure sine waves provide a wave with a beautiful, even up and down movement. In order for certain electronic devices, such as entertainment equipment, to function correctly, they need to be supplied with pure wave, although smaller electronic devices, such as kitchen appliances, can function adequately when supplied with modified wave.

What do charge controllers do?

A charge controller is required for a solar power system whenever there are batteries present in the system. This is necessary because, in contrast to conventional power sources, solar panels remain essentially “on” whenever the sun is shining, regardless of whether or not there is a switch to turn them on and off. If the batteries are already at their maximum capacity, this could be an issue because overcharging them would render them useless. Therefore, the charge controller regulates the amount of charge that is put into the batteries and maximises the amount of energy that they absorb.

Control Panels, Disconnects, and Wiring

In a solar power system, there are quite a few disconnect switches, fuse panels, and wiring connections. These are combined in a way that is suitable for the solar power system in question. Because the cost of wiring can quickly add up, it is important to keep the distances between components as short as possible. Similar to how water flows more easily through larger pipes, direct current (DC) electricity operates most effectively over thick, heavy gauge wire. The larger the wire, it goes without saying that the higher the cost.

Solar PV system Batteries

Lead-acid, lithium ion, nickel cadmium, and flow batteries are the four most common types of rechargeable batteries utilised in the field of solar power.

Lead-Acid battery

Lead-acid batteries have been around for a long time and are one of the most common kinds of batteries used in cars and factories. They have a low energy density (meaning they cannot hold much energy per kg of weight), but remain both cost-effective and reliable and thus have become a common choice for use in a home solar setup. Lead-acid batteries can be either flooded or sealed, and they can be shallow cycle or deep cycle depending on what they are used for and how deeply they can be discharged safely (DOD). Recent technological advances have made these batteries last longer, and many homeowners still choose to use lead-acid batteries.

Lithium-Ion battery

When compared to the technology that was utilised in the production of batteries of earlier generations, lithium-ion batteries are an extremely recent development. Because of their relatively low weight, portability, and high energy density, lithium-ion batteries have been a popular replacement option in recent years. These batteries are an excellent choice for usage in mobile electronics such as laptops and smartphones as well as stationary applications like as the home because the device can use more of the battery’s energy before the battery needs to be recharged. The huge price increase that consumers are required to bear is one of the most major downsides associated with lithium-ion batteries. A phenomenon known as thermal runaway can cause lithium-ion batteries to catch fire in the event that they are not installed in the correct manner.

Nickel-Cadmium battey

As a result of their exceptional toughness and one-of-a-kind capacity to continue operating even when exposed to extremely high or low temperatures, nickel-cadmium batteries are utilised in commercial and industrial settings more frequently than they are in private homes. When compared to other types of batteries, nickel-cadmium batteries demand a minimal level of maintenance in order to function properly. Cadmium is a regrettably very hazardous metal that, in the event that it is not disposed of in the appropriate manner, has the potential to have a substantial and detrimental effect on our natural environment.

Flow battery

Chemical processes are essential to the operation of flow batteries. Within the battery itself, the circulation of a fluid containing electrolytes between two different compartments produces new energy. Flow batteries have a low energy density, which means that the tanks that contain the electrolyte liquid need to be quite large in order to store a significant amount of energy. Despite the fact that flow batteries offer high efficiency, with a depth of discharge of 100%, they have a low energy density. Because of their size, using them in most residential applications is both expensive and impracticable. Flow batteries are an excellent choice for environments and applications that are significantly more expansive. Examine Estimates Provided By Highly Regarded Solar Panel Installers Choose a state to get started on your free, no-obligation estimate. There is no risk involved.

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