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Photovoltaic system

Photovoltaic systems (PV system) use solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity. A system is made up of one or more solar panels, usually a controller or power converter, and the interconnections and mounting for the other components. A small PV system may provide energy to a single consumer, or to an isolated device like a lamp or a weather instrument. Large grid-connected PV systems can provide the energy needed by many customers.

Photovoltaic modules

Due to the low voltage of an individual solar cell (typically ca. 0.5V), several cells are wired in series in the manufacture of a "laminate". The laminate is assembled into a protective weatherproof enclosure, thus making a photovoltaic module or solar panel. Modules may then be strung together into a photovoltaic array. The electricity generated can be either stored, used directly (island/standalone plant)or fed into a large electricity grid powered by central generation plants (grid-connected/grid-tied plant) or combined with one or many domestic electricity generators to feed into a small grid (hybrid plant).[1] Depending on the type of application, the rest of the system ("balance of system" or "BOS") consists of different components. The BOS depends on the load profile and the system type. Systems are generally designed in order to ensure the highest energy yield for a given investment.[citation needed]

Photovoltaic arrays

A photovoltaic array is a linked assembly of PV modules.

The solar panels on this small yacht at sea can charge the 12 volt batteries at up to 9 amperes in full, direct sunlight.
A photovoltaic array (or solar array) is a linked collection of solar panels.[2]

The power that one module can produce is seldom enough to meet requirements of a home or a business, so the modules are linked together to form an array. Most PV arrays use an inverter to convert the DC power produced by the modules into alternating current that can power lights, motors, and other loads. The modules in a PV array are usually first connected in series to obtain the desired voltage; the individual strings are then connected in parallel to allow the system to produce more current. Solar arrays are typically measured under STC (standard test conditions) or PTC (PVUSA test conditions), in watts, kilowatts, or even megawatts.[citation needed]

Costs of production have been reduced in recent years for more widespread use through production and technological advances. 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 fell to $2.43/watt. For large-scale installations, prices below $1.00/watt are now common.[3] Crystal silicon solar cells have largely been replaced by less expensive multicrystalline silicon solar cells, and thin film silicon solar cells have also been developed recently at lower costs of production. Although they are reduced in energy conversion efficiency from single crystalline "siwafers", they are also much easier to produce at comparably lower costs.[citation needed]

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