Despite the growth in the solar photovoltaic market in the past couple of years, many people still ask the question “How does Solar Photovoltaic (Solar PV) work?”

This is because solar PV is still a relatively new concept to many people who may have limited knowledge of renewable energy systems as a whole. Although there are numerous sites where one can search for solar photovoltaic information, some can be confusing and are filled with bewildering jargon which leaves the visitor confused. At Ice Energy, we just want to give you the facts.

So, just how does Solar Photovoltaic (Solar PV) work? Essentially, a Solar Photovoltaic (Solar PV) system works by converting light into electricity which can be used to power your lights and household appliances including other renewables products such as heat pumps and can also generate income via the Feed-in-Tariff.

The Solar Photovoltaic (Solar PV) process

Solar Photovoltaic (solar PV) panels are attached to your roof, or in the case of some larger commercial renewable energy projects, panels can also be mounted on aluminium mounting frames which are placed at ground level.

Although solar PV panels are at their most efficient in strong sunshine, despite what other companies or sceptics may tell you, they can still produce electricity on cloudy days. As the light passes across the layers of semi-conducting material which make up the photovoltaic cells, an electric current referred to as a Direct Current (DC) is produced and fed into an inverter. This in turn creates an Alternative Current (AC) which powers the appliances within your property.

Monitoring the electricity

The electricity produced is monitored by an OFGEM accredited photovoltaic meter which is located between the PV array and the consumer unit or distribution board. This is what is used to measure the amount of electricity generated and fed back into the National Grid which in turn dictates the level of Feed-in-Tariff payment received.

The measurement used in relation to solar PV is kilowatts peak (kWp) which is the rate at which energy is created at peak performance during the summer time and in full direct sunlight.

How does Solar Photovoltaic (Solar PV) work with the grid?

Solar photovoltaic installations can be incorporated into the main electricity network (the Grid) or can be created separately as a stand alone system although this is less common and generally only applicable to properties located in very remote positions. 

On Grid Solar Photovoltaic (Solar PV) systems

Solar photovoltaic systems which are connected to the Grid are by far and away the most common type of solar PV system. During the day, electricity generated by the photovoltaic system is used within the property while the surplus can be fed back into the Grid and purchased for an agreed price. This is what forms the basis of the Feed-in-Tariff. When the solar PV system is unable to capture sunlight, during the night for example, the property will draw its electricity from the Grid in the same way as properties who have not installed a solar photovoltaic system.

Off Grid Solar Photovoltaic (Solar PV) systems

A less common type of solar photovoltaic installation is an off-Grid proposition. This type of solar PV installation does not link to the Grid but instead stores the electricity the photovoltaic system generates in rechargeable batteries.

Solar Photovoltaic (Solar PV) panels

There are many different types of Solar photovoltaic panels and the boom of the solar PV industry has seen an influx of panels from abroad, some of which are far less capable of producing substantial amounts of electricity than the photovoltaic modules used by Ice Energy. Some of the common types of panels used are:

  • Mono-crystalline silicon
  • Poly-crystalline silicon
  • Amorphous silicon thin film
  • Thin film cells of other materials such as copper indium diselenide
  • (CIS) and cadmium telluride
  • Organic solar cells
Ice Energy Solar Photovoltaic (Solar PV) Array
Fronius Solar Photovoltaic (Solar PV) Inverter