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Nellis Solar Power Plant at Nellis Air Force Base in the USA. These panels track the sun in one axis.

Photovoltaic SUDI shade is an autonomous and mobile station in France that replenishes energy for electric vehicles using solar energy.

Solar panels on the International Space Station

Photovoltaics (PV) is a method of generating electrical power by converting solar radiation into direct current electricity using semiconductors that exhibit thephotovoltaic effect. Photovoltaic power generation employs solar panels composed of a number of solar cells containing a photovoltaic material. Materials presently used for photovoltaics include monocrystalline silicon, polycrystalline silicon, amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride, and copper indium gallium selenide/sulfide.[1] Due to the growing demand

for renewable energy sources, the manufacturing of solar cells and photovoltaic arrays has advanced considerably in recent years.[2][3][4] Solar photovoltaics is growing rapidly, albeit from a small base, to a total global capacity of 67,400 megawatts (MW) at the end of 2011, representing 0.5% of worldwide electricity demand. [5] The total power output of the world’s PV capacity run over a calendar year is equal to some 80 billion kWh of electricity. This is sufficient to cover the annual power supply needs of over 20 million households in the world.[5] More than 100 countries use solar PV.[6] Installations may be ground-mounted (and sometimes integrated with farming and grazing)[7] or built into the roof or walls of a building (building-integrated photovoltaics). Driven by advances in technology and increases in manufacturing scale and sophistication, the cost of photovoltaics has declined steadily since the first solar cells were manufactured[8] and the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) from PV is competitive with conventional electricity sources in an expanding list of geographic regions.[9] Net metering and financial incentives, such as preferential feed-in tariffs for solargenerated electricity, have supported solar PV installations in many countries.[10] With current technology, photovoltaics recoup the energy needed to manufacture them in 1 to 4 years.[11]

   

1 Solar cells 2 Current developments 3 Economics 4 Applications

o o o o o o o    

4.1 Power stations 4.2 In buildings 4.3 In transport 4.4 Standalone devices 4.5 Rural electrification 4.6 Solar roadways 4.7 Solar Power satellites

5 Advantages 6 Disadvantages 7 See also 8 References



Solar cells produce electricity directly from sunlight

Average solar irradiance, watts per square metre. Note that this is for a horizontal surface, whereas solar panels are normally mounted at an angle and receive more energy per unit area. The small black dots show the area of solar panels needed to generate all of the world's energy using 8% efficient photovoltaics.

Solar cell productions by region[12]

Main article: Solar cell Photovoltaics are best known as a method for generating electric power by using solar cells to convert energy from the sun into a flow of electrons. Thephotovoltaic effect refers to photons of light exciting electrons into a

higher state of energy, allowing them to act as charge carriers for an electric current. The photovoltaic effect was first observed by Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel in 1839.[13][14] The term photovoltaic denotes the unbiased operating mode of aphotodiode in which current through the device is entirely due to the transduced light energy. Virtually all photovoltaic devices are some type of photodiode. Solar cells produce direct current electricity from sun light, which can be used to power equipment or to recharge a battery. The first practical application of photovoltaics was to power orbiting satellites and other spacecraft, but today the majority of photovoltaic modules are used for grid connected power generation. In this case an inverter is required to convert the DC to AC. There is a smaller market for off-grid power for remote dwellings, boats, recreational vehicles, electric cars, roadside emergency telephones, remote sensing, and cathodic protection of pipelines. Photovoltaic power generation employs solar panels composed of a number of solar cells containing a photovoltaic material. Materials presently used for photovoltaics include monocrystalline silicon, polycrystalline silicon, amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride, and copper indium gallium selenide/sulfide.[1] Due to the growing demand for renewable energy sources, the manufacturing of solar cells and photovoltaic arrays has advanced considerably in recent years.[2][3][4] Cells require protection from the environment and are usually packaged tightly behind a glass sheet. When more power is required than a single cell can deliver, cells are electrically connected together to form photovoltaic modules, or solar panels. A single module is enough to power an emergency telephone, but for a house or a power plant the modules must be arranged in multiples as arrays. A significant market has emerged in off-grid locations for solar-power-charged storage-battery based solutions. These often provide the only electricity available.[15] The first commercial installation of this kind was in 1966 on Ogami Island in Japan to transition Ogami Lighthouse from gas torch to fully self-sufficient electrical power. Due to the growing demand for renewable energy sources, the manufacture of solar cells and photovoltaic arrays has advanced dramatically in recent years.[2][3][4] Solar photovoltaics is growing rapidly, albeit from a small base, to a total global capacity of 67,400 megawatts (MW) at the end of 2011, representing 0.5% of worldwide electricity demand. [5] The total power output of the world’s PV capacity run over a calendar year is equal to some 80 billion kWh of electricity. This is sufficient to cover the annual power supply needs of over 20 million households in the world. [5] More than 100 countries use solar PV.[6] World solar PV capacity (grid-connected) was 7.6 GW in 2007, 16 GW in 2008, 23 GW in 2009, and 40 GW in 2010.[16][17][18] More than 100 countries use solar PV.[6]Installations may be ground-mounted (and sometimes integrated with farming and grazing)[7] or built into the roof or walls of a building (building-integrated photovoltaics).

Photovoltaic power capacity is measured as maximum power output under standardized test conditions (STC) in "Wp" (Watts peak).[19] The actual power output at a particular point in time may be less than or greater than this standardized, or "rated," value, depending on geographical location, time of day, weather conditions, and other factors.[20] Solar photovoltaic array capacity factors are typically under 25%, which is lower than many other industrial sources of electricity.[21] The EPIA/Greenpeace Advanced Scenario shows that by the year 2030, PV systems could be generating approximately 1.8 TW of electricity around the world. This means that, assuming a serious commitment is made to energy efficiency, enough solar power would be produced globally in twenty-five years’ time to satisfy the electricity needs of almost 14% of the world’s population.[22]



Map of solar electricity potential in Europe. Germany is the current leader in the use of photovoltaics, even though it has lower insolation levels than some other parts of Europe.

Photovoltaic panels based on crystalline silicon modules are encountering competition in the market by panels that employ thin-film solar cells (CdTe[23]CIGS,[24] amorphous Si,[25] microcrystalline Si), which had been rapidly evolving and are expected to account for 31 percent of the global installed power by 2013. [26] However, precipitous drops in prices for polysilicon and their panels in late 2011 have caused some thin-film makers to exit the market and others to experience severely squeezed profits.[27] Other developments include casting wafers instead of sawing,[28] concentrator modules, 'Sliver' cells, andcontinuous printing processes. The San Jose-based company Sunpower produces cells that have an energy conversion ratio of 19.5%, well above the market average of 12–18%.[29] The most efficient solar cell so far is a multi-junction concentrator solar cell with an efficiency of 43.5%[30] produced by the National Renewable Energy Laboratoryin April 2011. The highest efficiencies achieved without concentration include Sharp Corporation at 35.8% using a proprietary triple-junction manufacturing technology in 2009,[31] and Boeing Spectrolab (40.7% also using a triple-layer design). A March 2010 experimental demonstration of a design by a Caltech group led by Harry Atwater which has an absorption efficiency of 85% in sunlight and 95% at certain wavelengths is claimed to have near perfect

quantum efficiency.[32] However, absorption efficiency should not be confused with the sunlight-to-electricity conversion efficiency. For best performance, terrestrial PV systems aim to maximize the time they face the sun. Solar trackers achieve this by moving PV panels to follow the sun. The increase can be by as much as 20% in winter and by as much as 50% in summer. Static mounted systems can be optimized by analysis of the sun path. Panels are often set to latitude tilt, an angle equal to the latitude, but performance can be improved by adjusting the angle for summer or winter. Generally, as with other semiconductor devices, temperatures above room temperature reduce the performance of photovoltaics.[33] A number of solar panels may also be mounted vertically above each other in a tower, if the zenith distance of the Sun is greater than zero, and the tower can be turned horizontically as a whole and each panels additionally around a horizontical axis. In such a tower the panels can follow exactly the Sun. Such a device may be described as a ladder mounted on a turnable disk. Each step of that ladder is the middle axis of a rectangular solar panel. In case the zenith distance of the Sun gets zero, the ―ladder‖ may be rotated to the north or the south to avoid that a solar panel produces a shadow on a lower mounted solar panel. Instead of an exactly vertical tower one can choose a tower with an axis directed to the polar star, meaning that it is parallel to the rotation axis of theEarth. In this case the angle between the axis and the Sun is always larger than 66 degrees. During a day it is only necessary to turn the panels around this axis to follow the Sun. The 2011 European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) report predicted that, "The future of the PV market remains bright in the EU and the rest of the world," the report said. "Uncertain times are causing governments everywhere to rethink the future of their energy mix, creating new opportunities for a competitive, safe and reliable electricity source such as PV."[34] 2012 could see the installation of 20–30 GW of PV — about the same as in 2011. Unfortunately, the industry's capacity continues to expand, to perhaps as much as 38 GW. The resulting glut of supply has crushed prices and profits.[35] By 2015, 131–196 GW of photovoltaic systems could be installed around the globe.[34]


Photovoltaic power worldwide GWp[5]















Year end capacities

The output of a photovoltaic array is a product of the area, the efficiency, and the insolation. The capacity factor, or duty cycle, of photovoltaics is relatively low, typically from 0.10 to 0.30, as insolation ranges, by latitude and prevailing weather, and is location specific from about 2.5 to 7.5 sun hours/day. Panels are rated under standard conditions by their output power. The DC output is a product of the rated output times the number of panels times the insolation times the number of days. The sunlight received by the array is affected by a combination of tilt, tracking and shading. Tracking increases the yield but also the cost, both installation and maintenance. A dual axis tracker can increase the effective insolation by roughly 35-40%, while temperature effects can reduce efficiency by 10%. The AC output is roughly 25% lower due to various losses including the efficiency of the inverter.[36] For example, for a 4 kW array in Paris, where the average insolation is 3 kWh/m²/day, the annual (AC) output would be approximately 4kWx3x365x0.75=3285 kWh, [37] and the monthly output, from the following chart, would range from 67 kWh in December to 498 kWh in July. [38] The weather strongly affects the output and from year to year monthly and annual outputs can vary substantially. Published insolation values are normally 10 year averages. There are many live data sites that can be monitored, and compared.[39]

Source: Apricus[40]
Financial incentives for photovoltaics, such as feed-in tariffs, have often been offered to electricity consumers to install and operate solar-electric generating systems. Government has sometimes also offered incentives in order to encourage the PV industry to achieve the economies of scaleneeded to compete where the cost of PVgenerated electricity is above the cost from the existing grid. Such policies are implemented to promote national or territorial energy independence, high techjob creation and reduction of carbon dioxide emissions which cause global warming. Due to economies of scale solar panels get less costly as people use and buy more — as manufacturers increase production to meet demand, the cost and price is expected to drop in the years to come.

NREL compilation of best research solar cell efficiencies from 1976 to 2010

According to Shi Zhengrong, in 2012 unsubsidized PV systems already produce electricity in some parts of the world, more cheaply than coal and gas-fired power plants.[41][42] As PV system prices decline it is inevitable that subsidies will end. "Rapid decline or outright disappearance has already been seen in all the major solar markets except China and India".[42] As of 2011, the price of PV modules per MW has fallen by 60 percent since the summer of 2008, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates, putting solar power for the first time on a competitive footing with

the retail price of electricity in a number of sunny countries. There has been fierce competition in the supply chain, and further improvements in the levelised cost of energy for solar lie ahead, posing a growing threat to the dominance of fossil fuel generation sources in the next few years.[43] As time progresses, renewable energy technologies generally get cheaper,[44][45] while fossil fuels generally get more expensive: The less solar power costs, the more favorably it compares to conventional power, and the more attractive it becomes to utilities and energy users around the globe. Utility-scale solar power can now be delivered in California at prices well below $100/MWh ($0.10/kWh) less than most other peak generators, even those running on low-cost natural gas. Lower solar module costs also stimulate demand from consumer markets where the cost of solar compares very favorably to retail electric rates.[46] As of 2011, the cost of PV has fallen well below that of nuclear power and is set to fall further. The average retail price of solar cells as monitored by the Solarbuzz group fell from $3.50/watt to $2.43/watt over the course of 2011, and a decline to prices below $2.00/watt seems inevitable:[47] For large-scale installations, prices below $1.00/watt are common. In some locations, PV has reached grid parity, the cost at which it is competitive with coal or gas-fired generation. Photovoltaic power is also generated during a time of day that is close to peak demand (precedes it). More generally, it is now evident that, given a carbon price of $50/ton, which would raise the price of coal-fired power by 5c/kWh, solar PV will be costcompetitive in most locations. The declining price of PV has been reflected in rapidly growing installations, totaling about 23 GW in 2011. Although some consolidation is likely in 2012, as firms try to restore profitability, strong growth seems likely to continue for the rest of the decade. Already, by one estimate, total investment in renewables for 2011 exceeded investment in carbon-based electricity generation.[47]


80 MW Okhotnykovo Solar Park in Ukraine.

President Barack Obama speaks at theDeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center.



Main articles: Solar parks and solar farms and List of photovoltaic power stations Many solar photovoltaic power stations have been built, mainly in Europe.[48] As of December 2011, the largest photovoltaic (PV) power plants in the world are the Golmud Solar Park (China, 200 MW), Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant (Canada, 97 MW), Montalto di Castro Photovoltaic Power Station (Italy, 84.2 MW),Finsterwalde Solar Park (Germany, 80.7 MW), Okhotnykovo Solar Park (Ukraine, 80 MW), Lieberose Photovoltaic Park (Germany, 71.8 MW), Rovigo Photovoltaic Power Plant (Italy, 70 MW), Olmedilla Photovoltaic Park (Spain, 60 MW), and the Strasskirchen Solar Park (Germany, 54 MW).[48] There are also many large plants under construction. The Desert Sunlight Solar Farm under construction in Riverside County, California and Topaz Solar Farmbeing built in San Luis Obispo County, California are both 550 MW solar parks that will use thin-film solar photovoltaic modules made by First Solar.[49] TheBlythe Solar Power Project is a 500 MW photovoltaic station under construction in Riverside County, California. The Agua Caliente Solar Project is a 290 megawatt photovoltaic solar generating facility being built in Yuma County, Arizona. The California Valley Solar Ranch (CVSR) is a 250 megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic power plant, which is being built by SunPower in the Carrizo Plain, northeast of California Valley.[50] The 230 MW Antelope Valley Solar Ranch is a First Solar photovoltaic project which is under construction in the Antelope Valley area of the Western Mojave Desert, and due to be completed in 2013.[51]The Mesquite Solar project is a photovoltaic solar power plant being built in Arlington, Maricopa County, Arizona, owned by Sempra Generation.[52] Phase 1 will have a nameplate capacity of 150 megawatts.[53] Many of these plants are integrated with agriculture and some use innovative tracking systems that follow the sun's daily path across the sky to generate more electricity than conventional fixed-mounted systems. There are no fuel costs or emissions during operation of the power stations.



Photovoltaic wall at MNACTEC Terrassa in Spain

Main article: List of rooftop photovoltaic installations Photovoltaic arrays are often associated with buildings: either integrated into them, mounted on them or mounted nearby on the ground. Arrays are most often retrofitted into existing buildings, usually mounted on top of the existing roof structure or on the existing walls. Alternatively, an array can be located separately from the building but connected by cable to supply power for the building. In 2010, more than four-fifths of the 9,000 MW of solar PV operating in Germany were installed on rooftops.[54] Building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) are increasingly incorporated into new domestic and industrial buildings as a principal or ancillary source of electrical power. [55] Typically, an array is incorporated into the roof or walls of a building. Roof tiles with integrated PV cells are also common. A 2011 study using thermal imaging has shown that solar panels, provided there is an open gap in which air can circulate between them and the roof, provide a passive cooling effect on buildings during the day and also keep accumulated heat in at night.[56] The power output of photovoltaic systems for installation in buildings is usually described in kilowatt-peak units (kWp).



Main article: Photovoltaics in transport PV has traditionally been used for electric power in space. PV is rarely used to provide motive power in transport applications, but is being used increasingly to provide auxiliary power in boats and cars. A selfcontained solar vehicle would have limited power and low utility, but a solar-charged vehicle would allow use of solar power for transportation. Solar-powered cars have been demonstrated.[57]



Solar parking paystation.

Until a decade or so ago, PV was used frequently to power calculators and novelty devices. Improvements in integrated circuits and low power liquid crystal displaysmake it possible to power such devices for several years between battery changes, making PV use less common. In contrast, solar powered remote fixed devices have seen increasing use recently in locations where significant connection cost makes grid power prohibitively expensive. Such applications include water pumps,[58]parking meters,[59][60] emergency telephones,[61] trash compactors,[62] temporary traffic signs, and remote guard posts and signals.



Unlike the past decade, which saw solar solutions purchased mainly by international donors, it is now the locals who are increasingly opening their wallets to make the switch from their traditional energy means. That is because solar products prices in recent years have declined to become cheaper than kerosene and batteries. In Cambodia, for example, villagers can buy a solar lantern at US$25 and use it for years without any extra costs, where their previous spending on kerosene for lighting was about $2.5 per month, or $30 per year. In Kenya a solar kit that provides bright light or powers a radio or cell phone costs under $30 at retail stores. By switching to this kit Kenyans can save $120 per year on kerosene lighting, radio batteries and cell phone recharging fees.[63]

Developing countries where many villages are often more than five kilometers away from grid power are increasingly using photovoltaics. In remote locations in India a rural lighting program has been providing solar powered LED lighting to replace kerosene lamps. The solar powered lamps were sold at about the cost of a few months' supply of kerosene.[64][65] Cuba is working to provide solar power for areas that are off grid.[66] These are areas where the social costs and benefits offer an excellent case for going solar though the lack of profitability could relegate such endeavors to humanitarian goals.



The 104kW solar highway along the interchange of Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 near Tualatin, Oregon in December 2008.

Main article: Solar roadway In December 2008, the Oregon Department of Transportation placed in service the nation’s first solar photovoltaic system in a U.S. highway right-of-way. The 104-kilowatt (kW) array produces enough electricity to offset approximately one-third of the electricity needed to light the Interstate highway interchange where it is located.[67] A 45 mi (72 km) section of roadway in Idaho is being used to test the possibility of installing solar panels into the road surface, as roads are generally unobstructed to the sun and represent about the percentage of land area needed to replace other energy sources with solar power.[68]


Power satellites

Main article: Solar power satellite Space-based solar power (SBSP) is the concept of collecting solar power in space for use on Earth. It has been in research since the early 1970s. SBSP would differ from current solar collection methods in that the means used to collect energy would reside on an orbiting satellite instead of on Earth's surface. Some projected benefits of such a system are: higher collection rate, longer collection period, and elimination of weather concerns. SBSP also introduces several new hurdles, primarily the problem of transmitting energy from orbit to Earth's surface for use.


The 89 PW of sunlight reaching the Earth's surface is plentiful – almost 6,000 times more than the 15 TW equivalent of average power consumed by humans.[69] Additionally, solar electric generation has the highest power density (global mean of 170 W/m²) among renewable energies.[69] Solar power is pollution-free during use. Production end-wastes and emissions are manageable using existing pollution controls. End-of-use recycling technologies are under development [70] and policies are being produced that encourage recycling from producers.[71] PV installations can operate for many years with little maintenance or intervention after their initial set-up, so after the initial capital cost of building any solar power plant, operating costs are extremely low compared to existing power technologies. Grid-connected solar electricity can be used locally thus reducing transmission/distribution losses (transmission losses in the US were approximately 7.2% in 1995).[72] Compared to fossil and nuclear energy sources, very little research money has been invested in the development of solar cells, so there is considerable room for improvement. Nevertheless, experimental high efficiency solar cells already have efficiencies of over 40% in case of concentrating photovoltaic cells [73] and efficiencies are rapidly rising while mass-production costs are rapidly falling.[74]

In some states of the United States of America, much of the investment in a home-mounted system may be lost if the home-owner moves and the buyer puts less value on the system than the seller. The city of Berkeley developed an innovative financing method to remove this limitation, by adding a tax assessment that is transferred with the home to pay for the solar panels.[75] Now known asPACE, Property Assessed Clean Energy, 28 U.S. states have duplicated this solution.[76]