Panels photovoltaic solar energy

Applications of solar cells, list and description of its uses

Applications of solar cells, list and description of its uses

The main uses of solar cells are the following:

  • Supply electricity directly to the power grid.

  • Autonomous lighting systems.

  • Signaling.

  • Remote areas.

  • Power supply in communication systems, such as repeaters, antennas, etc.

  • Agricultural and livestock farms

As we can see, the applications of photovoltaic solar energy vary. This field includes large electricity generation plants using PV panels to small solar calculators.

What is photovoltaic energy?

Photovoltaics (PV) is a way of harnessing solar energy to transform it into electricity. Solar panels are made up of PV cells built with a semiconductor material that reacts with the impact of photons of light.

When a solar PV cell receives the impact of a photon can displace one electron from its outer layers creating an electric current. This phenomenon is called the photovoltaic effect.

There are many types of solar cells, such as thin-film solar cells. A thin-film solar cell consists of a cell made by depositing one or more thin layers of PV material. 

Solar energy is one of the primary sources of renewable energy that we have on Earth. Actually, photovoltaic plants are centers for transforming solar energy into electrical power.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is a center researching how to improve PV solar energy efficiencies.

Solar PV applications in systems connected to the electricity grid

This solar PV application consists of the use of solar panels and a power inverter. Photovoltaic solar panels provide electricity in the form of direct current. The function of the inverter is to transform direct current into alternating current and inject it into the electrical grid and also for net metering.

These installations are applicable for both small investors and extensive facilities.

Users with photovoltaic panels connected to the electricity grid can sell the surplus generated to the electricity company and buy it when needed. In this way, batteries are saved, and the production of the installation is optimized.

The cost per kilowatt-hour generated is typically higher than power generated by other power generation systems. For this reason, the country must have legal regulations and lines of economic aid for the higher energy cost.

Within the solar energy systems connected to the grid, we include the large solar installations. These are large tracts of land with many PV panels to generate large amounts of electrical energy.

What is an autonomous photovoltaic solar power plant for?

Off-grid solar systems are not connected to the electrical grid.

The number of uses and applications of solar photovoltaic systems is almost endless. Here are some examples:

1. Use of photovoltaic energy for public lighting

Applications of solar cells, list and description of its usesPublic lighting, using solar panels, is one of the cheapest options to illuminate the entrances in towns, road crossings, rest areas, etc.

This type of photovoltaic application can also be found in billboards, bus stops, street lighting, and tunnel lighting, among other examples.

2. Signal elements

Photovoltaic solar energy allows the automation of lighthouses and buoys for maritime use.

For aerial use, panels are being used to power beacons and signaling signs on the runways.

Another great use of solar cells is signaling roundabouts, curves, traffic signs, obstacles, etc., using high brightness LEDs. The low consumption of the LEDs allows a small PV panels to be carried out in these systems.

In this sense, we also find examples in time and temperature indicators on public roads, at railway level crossings, or on oil platforms.

3. Communications, antenas and radars

PV solar energy is used in mobile telephony, radio, and television repeaters. On the road, the SOS posts are powered by this type of renewable energy since it saves the work of supplying them with main power cables.

Radars, radio telephony in general and for military or forest surveillance posts, and rural telephony via satellite are other examples in which solar energy is used to function.

4. Remote areas

One of the essential applications of photovoltaic cells today is the power supply of small rural areas with a centralized system.

Power in remote areas currently has all the comforts that can be had in a conventional electrical system. In addition, this system allows any appliance to replace fossil fuel dependency.

5. Agricultural and livestock farms

PV cells are also used on farms. Farms are often far from power distribution lines. Photovoltaic panels allow in these cases to electrify the farms (lighting, motors, shearing machines, etc.).

Applications of solar cells, list and description of its usesIn livestock applications, solar photovoltaics are used to power pumps to provide water for livestock troughs.

On specific farms, photovoltaic energy is used to power milking systems and milk cooling. In addition, even these systems are practical for electric fences.

Another use is to supply power for irrigation controls and solenoid valves. This technique has allowed a better distribution and saving of water, particularly in systems based on drip irrigation or low pressure.

Publication Date: June 9, 2017
Last Revision: July 4, 2022