A photovoltaic module is a package of solar cells which are interconnected into an array. They are more commonly known as a solar panel and used in a wider application such as residential or commercial solar power generation.
Each PV module is limited in the amount of electricity that it can produce so many installations contain several modules connected creating a solar array. A typical photovoltaic installation contains several photovoltaic modules, a inverter, connecting wire, and batteries.
Solar panels use photons from sunlight to generate electricity through the photoelectric effect. The solar cells are typically crystalline wafers built out of silicon.
To use the PV cell in practical applications;
- They must be connected to each other in a system
- Protected from mechanical damage during transport, installation, and usage. Plexiglas is usually used to protect the cells in an enclosure. Solar cells are incredibly brittle. They break easily in transport and under extreme weather conditions.
- Protected from moisture – The tabbing wire and cells need to be protected from moisture so that conductance is optimized. Corroded tabbing wire and solar cells lead to lower efficiency.
Electrical connections are made in series to produce optimal output. Blocking diodes are used to avoid overheating due to constant disconnects that happen as a result of limited sunlight exposure. It is also important to make sure that the system receives enough ventilation so the system does not overheat.
New technology called concentrators are now being developed which use lenses and reflective materials to concentrate sunlight into beams which are directed at the solar cells. This increases the output of the overall solar panel. Rather than installing more cells, it makes better usage of the current cells already in place.