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> Learning Center > Photovoltaic Energy

Photovoltaic Energy

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Photovoltaic Energy

Photovoltaic EnergyPhotovoltaic energy has to do with converting light into electrical energy.

Modern research focuses on discovering and making marketable the least expensive, most efficient solar cell possible. There are three current generations of solar cells that represent the best technology achieved in each wave of advancements.

Photovoltaic energy has become the world’s fastest-growing energy technology. PV systems are being implemented in buildings as what’s known as building integrated photovoltaics (BIPVs), power stations, transportation, rural and remote applications, and even being used on roadways to power signage and lights.

BIPVs can include massive arrays of thin film solar cells embedded in roofing shingles or tiles to provide primary or secondary power to an electrical system. Thin film technology is also applied to large area panels designed to generate even more power. Excess power can be stored in batteries or sold back to the utility for a credit (if your system is tied into the grid – which, most are).

The grid tie-in systems offer the best of both worlds – whether you generate most of your own power or all of it, the grid can be a useful backup or primary source with solar being the backup. Staying on the grid could even become lucrative in America if state and federal governments ever begin legislating feed-in tariff policies.

Power stations are being built around the world entirely devoted to collecting and converting solar energy into usable power. Spain is the frontrunner of the 21st century so far, having quickly built a lot of big solar power plants. Large-scale solar power plants are also operating in Germany, Portugal, South Korea and America – with more planned everywhere – especially in desert climates with a lot of sun exposure.

In America, the power plant at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas, Nevada has 70,000 solar panels. A solar plant in Salamanca, Spain also has a 70,000-panel array. Germany and Portugal both have facilities with more 50,000 panels a piece. But Spain still takes the cake by generating more kilowatt hours than is being generated in any other country around the world.

Photovoltaic energy technology is being used more and more as a secondary source of power for boats and cars. In the past it has been used in space applications. More and more ways are being explored in order to integrate more thin film technology into transportation applications.

Remote applications of photovoltaic energy technology include electrifying distant, remote and especially third-world places where traditional fossil-fueled energy doesn’t reach. Solar power systems have the potential to help a lot of people live a better life.

Roadways use photovoltaic energy to power standalone and grid-connected devices such as lights, signs, parking meters, cameras, timers and more. Parking meters and lights are now being made with integrated solar arrays designed to power them indefinitely.

In emerging technologies news: in Idaho, they are investigating the feasibility of installing solar arrays in the actual roadway. There is a company called Solar Roadways theorizing and promoting a 3-layer road surface designed to replace all asphalt surfacing and be totally interconnected. The road surface would be embedded with an electronics layer that includes an array of solar cells. Since the roadway would generate its own power, buildings, lights and signs could be connected to it. It would also heat and cool itself as needed – which would mean no more snow plows and salting/sanding the roadway in inclement weather. There are a lot of possibilities with this technology but the technology is yet to be developed and the cost estimates are still sky high – as much as $5,000 for just one panel.

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