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Solar Photovoltaic Power Plants, How It Works?

A solar photovoltaic power plant is a regular power plant that converts solar energy into electricity through the photovoltaic effect. This effect occurs when sunlight photons bump into a specific material and displace an electron, which generates a direct current.

How does a Solar Panel Works: The S...
How does a Solar Panel Works: The Science Behind It
Solar photovoltaic power plants, how it works?

The acronym PV is commonly used to refer to photovoltaics.

A photovoltaic plant is made up of PV modules and an inverter. Photovoltaic panels are responsible for transforming solar radiation. In turn, the inverter converts direct current into alternating current with characteristics similar to the electrical grid.

A solar array is a collection of multiple solar panels that generate electricity as a system. In a solar array, all the electricity generated is injected into the electrical distribution network. In this way, the performance is better because all the energy generated is used.

The largest solar PV power plant in the world is the Bhadla Solar Park in India. It has an installed capacity of 2,245 MW. The total cost of the installation was 1200 million euros.

Photovoltaics (PV) is renewable energy and clean energy because it does not generate polluting gases.

Parts of a Solar Photovoltaic Power Plant

Solar PV power plants are made up of different components, of which we cite the main ones:

  • Solar modules: they are made up of photovoltaic cells. A PV cell is made of a material called silicon that is prone to suffer the photovoltaic effect. Commonly, they are systems for tracking the Sun.

  • Meteorological tower: it is the place where the different climatic conditions are analyzed.

  • Direct current (DC) cabinet: It receives the electricity generated by the PV cells.

  • Investor: it converts the generated electricity from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC).

  • Alternating current (AC) cabinet: It receives the electricity that the inverter has transformed into AC.

  • Transformation center: in this place, the energy adapts to the conditions of intensity and voltage suitable to be transported.

  • Transportation lines: They are the lines that allow electricity to be transported to the consumption centers.

  • The control room in which the operators can supervise the operation of all the plant's elements.

How Is a Photovoltaic Power Station Built?

We attach a video about the construction of Adani's Solar Power Plant, India.

How Does a PV Power Plant Work?

The operation of all the equipment in the plant is supervised from the control room. In addition, information is received from the tower, the inverter, the power cabinets, the transformation centers, etc.

The process to transform solar energy into electricity is as follows:

1.- Conversion of Solar Energy into Direct Current

Photovoltaic cells are the essential elements of a photovoltaic system. These are grouped in photovoltaic panels.

Solar cells capture the Sun's radiation and convert it into electrical energy. In general, they are composed of silicon which is a semiconductor material that facilitates the photoelectric effect.

When a photon collides with a solar cell, an electron is released. With the sum of many free electrons, electricity is generated in the form of direct current.

Solar photovoltaic power plants, how it works?

The electricity generation capacity will depend on meteorology (radiation, humidity, temperature, etc.). Therefore, depending on the weather of each moment, the solar radiation that the photovoltaic cells will receive will be variable. For this reason, the tower is built in the solar plant.

2.- Transformation of Direct Current to Alternating Current

Photovoltaic panels generate direct current. However, the electrical energy that circulates through the transmission network does so in alternating current. For this reason, direct current  (DC) must be transformed to alternating current (AC).

First, the direct current from the solar panels is led to a direct current cabinet. In this cabinet, the current is molded into alternating current through a current inverter. The electricity is then sent to an alternating current cabinet.

3.- Transport and Supply of Electricity

The current that reaches the AC cabinet is not yet ready to be supplied to the electricity grid.

For this reason, the electrical energy produced passes through a transformation center. This center adapts the intensity and voltage to be the best conditions for the transmission lines.

Large PV plants face the additional challenge of needing to achieve favorable grid connections.

How Does a Photovoltaic Solar Power Plant Affect the Environment?

At an environmental level, a PV solar system has several advantages: 

  • First, it is a renewable and sustainable energy system.

  • Dependence on fossil fuels is reduced.

  • It is clean energy that does not emit greenhouse gases.

  • Low production of waste and polluting discharges during the exploitation phase.

However, these plants also have some drawbacks:

  • Affection to the landscape.

  • It requires a land-use change.

  • It's likely to affect animals' mobility.

It presents an affection by the occupation of biotopes. A biotope is an area of ​​uniform environmental conditions that provides living space for a group of flora and fauna.

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    Published: May 13, 2015
    Last review: July 3, 2021