Panels photovoltaic solar energy

Photovoltaic Solar Energy

Photovoltaic Solar Energy

Photovoltaic solar energy transforms solar radiation into electricity. Sometimes it is called photovoltaic energy or photoelectric energy.

This transformation is carried out on solar panels. Solar modules are made up of photocells with semiconductor materials. The most common materials are silicon compounds.

The main advantages are:

  • It does not generate pollution or greenhouse gas emissions. It does not contribute to climate change.
  • Does not require fuel. Only the radiation from the Sun.
  • Its dimensioning is scalable. It is easy to add or remove modules according to energy demand.

Energy production can be large-scale for general consumption or small-scale. When it is on a small scale, it is usually for small houses, mountain huts, or isolated sites.

What Is the Current Situation of Photoelectric Energy?

Photovoltaic energy is the third largest source of renewable energy in terms of global capacity. Hydraulic and wind energy occupy the second position.

How Is Solar Radiation Transformed into Electricity?

Photovoltaic panels are used to transform solar radiation into electricity. A type of solar panel. The panels are made up of photovoltaic cells. Cells are made of a material with electrons sensitive to solar radiation. When the solar radiation collides in it, an electron jumps generating an electric current.

Photovoltaic installations can be mounted on the ground, on the roof, on the wall or floating. The support can be fixed or use a solar tracker to always be oriented to the sun.

Silicon, the Material That Converts Solar Radiation into Electricity

Silicon is the material from which most photovoltaic cells are made.

The manufacture of photovoltaic cells is an expensive process, both economically and in time.

Silicon is a very abundant material on Earth. However, silicon processing is laborious and complicated.

Silicon ingots are made using very complicated processes. The wafers (photovoltaic cells) are then cut from these ingots.

Other higher performance materials are currently being prepared.

What Is Its Energy Efficiency?

Photovoltaic modules can produce electricity from a specific range of light frequencies. In general, however, it cannot cover the entire solar range. Specifically, ultraviolet, infrared, and low or diffuse light do not convert.

Photovoltaic Solar EnergyIf the solar panels were illuminated with monochromatic light, much higher efficiencies could be obtained.

Therefore, another design concept is to divide light into different wavelengths. Once separated, direct them to different tuned cells in these ranges. This has been designed to be able to increase efficiency by 50%.

Currently, the best rate of conversion of sunlight into photovoltaic energy is around 21.5%.

What Are the Uses and Applications of Photovoltaic Solar Energy?

The main application is the production of electricity from solar radiation.

Photovoltaic systems range from small systems to large power plants.

The small ones are usually mounted on the roof or integrated into buildings with capacities from a few to several tens of kilowatts. Large power plants a can generate hundreds of megawatts.

The main techniques and uses of this technology are as follows:

  • Integrated systems in roofs and buildings. Rooftop photovoltaic systems are often adapted to existing buildings. They are generally mounted on the existing roof structure or on existing walls.
  • Hybrid thermal photovoltaic solar collector These systems are systems that convert solar radiation into thermal and electrical energy.
  • Photovoltaic concentrator. Hubs use curved lenses and mirrors to focus sunlight on small solar cells. In this way a much higher photovoltaic power is achieved.
  • Rural electrification. This type of solar application is used in rural villages where power lines are far from the population.
  • Power plants. These plants are solar farms to obtain a high production of electrical power.
  • Floating solar. Floating solar energy systems are installed where there is little available land area. Solar panels, in this case, are floating on an aquatic surface such as in a swamp, lake, etc.
  • Independent systems. The clearest example of these systems are solar calculators.
  • In transport. Used to obtain motive power.
  • Telecommunications and signaling.
  • Spacecraft applications.

Isolated Installations and Connected to the Network

Mainly two types of photovoltaic installations are differentiated:

  • Grid connection photovoltaic installations. The energy produced is used entirely for sale to the electricity distribution network.
  • Network isolated photovoltaic installations. They are used for self-consumption. It may be in an isolated home, a telecommunications relay station, or other remote locations. It allows obtaining electricity, pumping water for irrigation, etc.

photovoltaic Solar Energy

Isolated Systems

Within systems not connected to the network there are countless applications. For example,

  • In small devices like calculators.
  • Street lighting.
  • Electric motors.
  • Automobiles and planes.

Systems Connected to the Network

Within the photovoltaic installations connected to the network there are photovoltaic solar energy plants. It is also called a solar park.

A solar park is a large power generation plant. It is designed for the sale of its production to the electricity grid. It is also known as a solar farm, especially if it is located in agricultural areas.


Photovoltaic solar energy is electricity obtained through solar energy. It is considered a renewable energy. It does not generate gases or contribute to climate change.

The transformation of solar radiation into electrical energy is carried out in solar panels.

There are two types of installations: isolated and connected to the network. Isolated facilities generate electricity for their own consumption. Grid-connected facilities supply electricity to the grid.


    1. Roper, L. David. World Photovoltaic Energy
    2. Swanson, R. M. (2009). Photovoltaics Power Up
    3. «Photovoltaic Effect»
    4. «The photovoltaic effect»
    5. «La fotovoltaica ya se codea en costes con la nuclear». El periódico de la energía.
    6. "Renewables 2019". IEA. Retrieved 26 January 2020.
    7. "PV report 2019" (PDF). Fraunhofer ISE.

    Published: December 18, 2009
    Last review: May 23, 2020