‘Photovoltaic’ is a marriage of two words: ‘photo’, meaning light, and ‘voltaic’, meaning electricity. Photovoltaic (PV) panels form part of a complete solar system to generate energy from sunlight.
What is “photovoltaic technology”?
Photovoltaic technology is the term used to describe the hardware converting solar energy into usable power. At the heart of this technology is a semi-conductor material which can be adapted to release electrons. The most common semi-conductor material used in photovoltaic cells is silicon — an element most commonly found in sand. Silicon is the second most abundant material on Earth!
Solar panels are comprised of a series of cells. All these cells have two layers of semi-conductors: one positively charged and one negatively charged. When light shines on the semi-conductor, the electric field between these two layers causes electricity to flow, generating direct current.
The greater the intensity of the light, the greater the flow of electricity. A PV system does not need bright sunlight in order to operate. It can also generate electricity on cloudy days. Due to the reflection of sunlight, days with slight cloud can even result in higher energy yields than days with a completely cloudless sky.
With South Africa’s long sunny days, PV technology is the perfect way to generate power from such an available (and renewable) source.