Photovoltaic Systems Defined and Rationalized

Monday, February 1, 2010

In this day and age when crude oil prices are soaring, the weather seems to be getting worse every year due to global warming, and the growing population which consumes more energy than ever, there needs to be some alternatives to our aging energy solutions. At our current rate, the world consumes energy at an estimated two percent growth annually. This would mean that the world-wide energy consumption will have doubled in the year 2040 compared to that of just three years ago. [1]

Based upon this fact the world has been working on improving our energy systems. There are many solutions that exist and have existed for many years, but these resources need to be captured and incorporated into an efficient system . One resource that we can use for energy is wind. As one might have noticed, windmills have been going up all over the place. Another resource for energy can come from using the power generated from the world's oceans. This energy is captured through the ocean's waves, but cannot be effectively captured in all parts of the world.
Although both of these and more exist, this article will focus on Photovoltaic Systems. Also known as a PV System, it utilizes photovoltaic cells, and solar energy from the Sun. Of course, solar energy from the Sun can more specifically be defined as the photon energy originally from the sun’s radiation in the wavelength region from 0.3 to 2.7 micrometers. The main component used in a PV System is the photovoltaic cell, also known as the solar cell. The solar cell is a semiconductor device that converts photons from the sun into electricity. Using the energy captured from the Sun this electricity can be used to power the grids that already exist without the need for replacing the whole system. This has to be one of the key benefits from a cost standpoint.
Speaking of cost, due to recent popularity, the cost of solar panels (consisting of thousands of cells combined into one ), has been steadily decreasing. This is just one obstacle that has to be overcome before we can implement this solution. Another obstacle is the fact that it is only practical in tropical regions. The best spots for the technology are in areas far from the areas that consume the most energy. This is due the space heating that occurs in the north because of the lesser solar insulation. Continuing, obviously the Sun is only out during the day, therefore we need to figure out a way to store this energy during the night. The final obstacle is the need to convert the DC power that is generated into AC power.
The good news is that these obstacles can be overcome. The benefits far outweigh these disadvantages. For instance, solar power generates very little environmental pollution, although pollution due to the manufacturing of silicon, etc., cannot be neglected.  Also, once the systems are in place, they need very little supervision and/or maintenance. This fact will account to the overall cost of running a facility due to a smaller staff. Another advantage is that the Sun is available to at least half of the world at any given moment. The greatest advantage is that apart from a catastrophic event, the Sun is not going to burn out any time soon. Unlike oil, we will not have to worry about running out, and because the Sun is available to everyone, as an added benefit, wars for oil can end.
PV systems can be found much more commonly in smaller applications around the homes. Lighting is by far the most common thing noticed around the common household. Nightlights, outdoor lighting, and even the headlights on your vehicle may be taking advantage of smaller, but nonetheless PV systems. Hopefully, these are just the start to much greater PV systems.  
Soon one will be able to buy an all electric car developed by General Motors. The Volt is its name and unlike a hybrid vehicle which incorporates two systems, the Volt runs on a single electric engine. There is another engine which uses gasoline, but is used as a generator, and is not used to move the vehicle. The car runs on the electric charge for 40 miles before using the generator for power, and will charge in six hours. Another electric vehicle is made by Tesla Motors, and is named the Tesla Roadster. Just last October in Australia, the Roadster was driven 313 miles on a single charge which is a new record. These cars will be available over the next few years, but are just an example of how electric systems overall will impact our future.
In utilizing PV systems, it may one day be possible to have a fully renewable resource system which will impact the generations to come. In doing so, all lives will be improved as our footprint will be smaller on Earth and as a planet we can continue to strive. 
Leave your comment
8/15/2011 10:41 AM
PV for the future


8/29/2011 1:15 PM
Certified PV Training

I would lkke to see CIE offer certified online training in this area leading to trade and/or professional recognition.