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Solar PV System

Solar systems are used to harness the natural energy given off by the sun, and there are different methods used to go about this as well as different objectives.

For example, solar thermal technology is used for generating heat whilst solar PV technology is more centered around generating electricity instead. In this article, we will go over the finer details of what makes up a solar PV system.

What Is a Solar PV System?

pv solar systems

A solar PV (short for photovoltaic) system is an electrical power generating system used to create a clean and renewable source of energy. This is done by converting the energy received from sunlight into electricity in a process known as the photovoltaic effect.

The photovoltaic effect doesn’t involve any carbon-dioxide emissions which is why it’s widely regarded as one of the most environmentally friendly methods of producing electricity: an ideal alternative to fossil fuels.

A solar PV system can be anything from a small-scale residential installation to even larger-scale electrical power systems, including solar farms and the like.

Many features distinguish the different types of PV systems from each other and all of these features are made to cater to the specific needs of their owners.

A solar PV system is made up of several individual components, each working to maintain the constant flow of electricity from the solar panels in a way that’s both safe and efficient. These components include, but are not limited to, solar panel mounting systems and solar backup generators.

Now, let's take a look at the components making up a solar PV system so that we may better understand its functioning as a whole.

Main Components of a Solar PV System

Solar Panels

solar pv systems

Solar panels are the most important part of getting your solar system installed. They’re usually placed alongside several other panels, and this string of solar panels is known as a solar array.

The solar panels themselves are made up of individual components known as solar cells. A solar cell is a semi-conducting electronic device made from silicone, which turns light energy into electrical energy. They are the ones responsible for capturing the sun’s light and initiating the photovoltaic effect.

A single solar cell is only able to produce around 0.5 volts, so they need to be wired together in series to produce enough energy to power things. Standard residential solar panels will usually be made up of around 36 to 72 solar cells, and larger-scale models can even have as many as 144 solar cells.

The solar cells are encased in tempered glass modules with an aluminum frame to protect them from the elements due to how delicate they are, being even thinner than a hair in some cases.

Given how delicate yet important the solar cells are, solar manufacturers make sure that the panels encasing them can withstand the harsher elements of the outdoors. This includes things like strong winds and hailstorms.

Constant exposure to the sun can cause damage to them after a while, so most solar panels will have a life expectancy of about 25 years or more.


The solar power inverter is the component responsible for converting DC (direct current) into AC (alternating current).

pv solar system

When a solar module generates an electric charge, that charge will take the form of DC. DC is characterized as a form of electric charge that only flows in a single direction, which is typically used to charge batteries and the like.

AC, on the other hand, is an electrical charge that can change its direction of flow periodically. This allows the charge to be distributed to household appliances. 

Solar inverters will be connected by cables to the solar array, and there are different kinds of inverters to choose from. One of them is known as a string inverter, which is a single solar inverter that is made to be connected to each of the solar panels at once. This is the standard solar inverter used by the majority of PV system owners and the most affordable as well. Another kind takes the form of what's known as a microinverter. 

Micro inverter solar systems are made up of multiple microinverters that are connected to each solar module individually. Unlike regular solar inverters that take in the electrical charge of the entire solar array, microinverters work to instantly convert the charge produced by the individual solar modules.

This type of solar inverter can monitor each of the solar panels for potential issues and also splits up the responsibility of handling high voltages, which makes them somewhat safer than the standard string inverter.

Mounting Structures

what is solar pv system

A solar panel's mounting system refers to the method used to attach them to wherever they are being placed. Depending on the structure of the household or business, there are a few different ways to go about mounting them.

Roof-mounted solar arrays are the most common type you'll find in residential solar power systems. They take the form of brackets that are bolted down to the home's rooftop, with the solar panels being attached afterward. Even when placed on a flat surface, these mounting brackets will be made to tilt in the direction that will receive the most sunlight.

The mounting brackets are made to be sturdy enough to withstand strong winds to prevent the possibility of the panels flying off during storms. That being said, they probably wouldn't last long against tornadoes.

Ground-mounted panels exist for instances where conditions for roof-mounting aren't favorable. This is generally because of shading in areas caused by trees or neighboring buildings. For a ground-mounted solar PV system to work, one would need a large enough space that will receive plenty of sunlight throughout the day.

A few ground-mounted solar PV systems will make use of tracking systems that allow the panels to tilt automatically and follow the trajectory of the sun to maximize efficiency. The downside to this would be the extra costs and the maintenance that will be required to keep it running smoothly.

Additionally, there are also building-integrated solar PV systems. This is when solar panels are built into the building itself in the form of roofs, canopies, etc.

Battery Storage

Solar batteries are used to store any excess electricity generated by the PV system so that they may be utilized at a later time. They are primarily used in residential solar power systems that are made for self-sustaining households, also known as off-grid solar systems.

pv solar power system

Solar system generators are often confused with batteries because they have some electric storage capacity. However, solar generators are much more advanced and also tend to include inverters, charge controllers, and other components that make them both more expensive and more versatile. 

Battery storage is used as a sort of backup energy source for off-grid homes. Since their only source of electricity comes from the solar power system, they will be at a disadvantage when it comes to situations where solar energy is not available, like during nighttime. Unlike grid-tied solar systems, off-grid households don't have the option of switching to their utility-provided electricity.

With the solar battery being charged with excess solar energy generated throughout the day, the off-grid solar household is given a secondary source of energy that can be used even when the panels are not producing any power.

Solar batteries can also be used for backing up grid-tied solar systems. This forms what we in the solar industry refer to as a hybrid solar PV system.

Hybrid solar systems are the most reliable when it comes to providing a household or business with a constant flow of energy. This is because they are connected to the utility grid while also having battery storage, so there are three power sources to alternate between.

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