What does photovoltaic (PV) mean?‘creates electricity from sunlight’. The term is used to differentiate systems that use solar panels from other solar technologies.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) is one of the two major solar technologies in use today, the other being solar thermal.
Photovoltaic (PV) systems use exploits certain chemical elements’ natural reaction to sunlight to create an electrical current. Solar panels use PV technology.
Solar thermal systems exploit the heat of sunlight. They can be used to heat water for use for heating and cleaning, as in rooftop hot water systems, or they can be used to create steam that drives turbines to generate electricity.
Solar leading specialize in PV solar technology.
The word photovoltaic can be split into two parts: ‘photo’, coming from the Greek word for light and ‘voltaic’, coming from ‘volt’: a unit of measurement used in electric circuits and named after Alessandro Volta, the inventor of one of the earliest electric batteries. Together then, the word means ‘light-electricity’, a great description of what pv systems do: convert sunlight into electricity that can be used to power homes and businesses.
How do solar panels work?By using elements such as silicon to create electricity in the presence of sunlight.
There are many ways to harness the power of the sun. Solar Leading specializes in photovoltaic solar technologies.
Modern solar panels harness the ‘photovoltaic effect’, first discovered by French physicist Edmund Becquerel in 1839. They use the natural characteristics of certain elements to create electrical currents in the presence of sunlight.
The most established solar panel technology is built on silicon, one of the most abundant and stable elements on the planet. First, the silicon is formed into large crystals. Next, these crystals are sliced into thin layers or wafers. These wafers are mechanically treated to increase their efficiency and inlaid with delicate wiring to collect the power they produce. At this point, they have become solar cells. Finally, several of these solar cells are wired together and laminated into a single, weatherproof unit that is called a solar module or solar panel.
But solar panels are just the first component in a solar power system. The electricity produced by the panels must pass through a solar inverter before it can be used.
The inverter converts the DC power produced by the panels into standard AC current which is safe to use in homes, businesses and the local grid. The exact standards for this AC current varies from country to country so it is very important to consult a professional before choosing a solar inverter.
What other components do I need to build a solar power system?That depends on whether your system will be connected to the local power grid or not.
The design of your residential, commercial or utility PV Solar Power System will depend on whether it is going to be attached to local mains electricity from the local power grid or not.
On Grid Systems (also known as ‘grid tie systems’) are connected to the local mains electricity supply as normal. This means that there is backup power when the system produces less energy than is used, for example at night. It also means that on days when the system produces more power than is used the excess electricity can be sold to the local power company for a profit.
On grid systems will require: solar panels and an appropriate mounting system, grid tied solar inverter(s) and monitor(s), solar cables and MC4 connectors, AC and DC safety isolator switches, and grounding earth cables and clamps.
Off Grid Systems are used in areas where it is difficult or impossible to connect to the local mains electricity. Without backup power from the electricity company, these systems must use batteries to store electricity for times when the system produces less power than is used, for example on cloudy days or at night.
Off grid systems will require: solar panels and a suitable solar mounting system, an off grid solar inverter, a solar power controller and batteries, solar cables and MC4 connectors, AC and DC safety isolator switches and grounding earth cables and clamps.
What are the benefits of installing solar panels?Solar power systems are one of the most practical ways that homes and businesses can immediately reduce their energy bills and ensure they stay low well into the future.
It has become clear that traditional sources of energy will not last forever. As supplies of fossil fuels run out, the price for mains electricity continues to rise. Larger energy bills put increasing pressure on families and businesses year on year.
What is more, it has become apparent that burning these fuels has serious side effects on our air quality and the world climate. Continuing to generate our energy in this way endangers the future health of every person on the planet.
Distributed renewable energies, in particular rooftop solar, present a unique opportunity to address both of these challenges.
Customers that have installed solar power systems have seen immediate reductions in their electricity bills. What is more, many have been able to generate more electricity than they actually use and sell the excess to the local power company. Not only have they cut their electricity bills but they have generated a new source of income that requires zero on-going effort. They have escaped their electricity bills and created an energy system that puts them back in control. To find out exactly how much our customers have saved, including case studies with full costings, please visit our case studies pages.
By reducing their reliance on electricity generated from fossil fuels, our customers have also made a serious contribution to reducing the human causes of climate change, potentially making the world a much safer place for our children.
What is the difference between Mono and Poly Crystalline Solar Panels?Broadly speaking, mono panels are better suited to installations with space constraints, poly is better suited to installations without space constraints.
There are three main types of silicon based solar panel: Monocrystalline (mono-si, mono), Polycrystalline (poly-Si, poly) and Amorphous (a-Si).
The difference between these lies in the way that the silicon crystal from which their cells were made was formed.
Monocrystalline or mono solar panels use solar cells that are made from a single silicon crystal which is ‘grown’ in what is known as the Czochralski process. You can usually tell a mono panel by its smooth even black color and the distinctive ‘cut off edges’ look of the cells. Mono panels tend to be more efficient and more expensive than the same sized poly panel. This makes them better suited to installations where space is constrained, for example, many small home systems use more expensive mono panels as they generate more power than poly panels from the same roof space.
Polycrystalline or poly solar panels use cells that are made from silicon from multiple sources, cast into a single ingot. You can tell an older poly panel by its ‘flaky’ blue appearance, although newer technologies are making them harder to distinguish from mono panels. Poly solar panels tend to be less efficient and less expensive than the same sized mono panel. This makes them better suited to installations where space is not an issue, for example, many large utility solar power plants use poly panels as they produce electricity at a lower cost per watt than the same sized mono panels.
Amorphous silicon is a non-crystalline form of silicon that is used in thin-film solar panels. Whilst this technology holds potential to produce significantly cheaper panels with a variety of innovative installation options, it is not, as yet, as well established as mono and poly crystalline technology.
For more information on the differences between mono and poly panels and how to choose between them, please read our mono or poly guide.
What is the difference between Grid Tie and Off Grid Systems? Which Do I need?On grid systems connect to the local power grid, off grid do not. It is usually preferable to remain on grid whenever possible.
Solar power systems can be divided into On Grid or Grid Tie Systems and Off Grid Systems.
On Grid Systems (also known as ‘grid tie systems’) are wired into the mains power supply as usual. This provides backup power when the solar panels generate less electricity than is needed, e.g. at night. It also means that at times when the panels generate more electricity than is needed the surplus can be sold to the electricity company at a profit.
Off Grid Systems are used in places where it is inconvenient or impossible to connect to the mains power supply. As there is no reserve power from the utility grid, off grid systems have to use storage batteries to save electricity for days when the system generates less electricity than is required, e.g. on cloudy days or at night time.
What do I need to know before I install solar panels in my home or business?
- Your location and climate
- Local regulations
- Your energy needs
- Your space constraints and planning regulations
- Your budget
Your location and local climate will have a large impact on the amount of power you will be able to generate from a solar power system. Total hours of sunlight, extreme weather and possible sources of shading must all be quantified before a system can be accurately designed.
Your local electrical grid operator will be able to advise you on the regulations and requirements for connecting to their system. This will determine whether you will require an on grid or an off grid solar power system.
Next, consider your energy usage. How much power do you actually need per year? A good place to find out is your previous electricity bills. Consider where you can use less power as this may reduce your system size and investment.
Lastly, before getting in touch with a solar professional, take some time to investigate how much space you have to install a solar array, any local planning regulations issued by local authorities and how much you are able to invest in your PV system.
For help finding the answer to any of these questions, feel free to contact one of our engineers at firstname.lastname@example.org
How will I get electricity at night?Your solar panels will only produce electricity when exposed to sunlight. At night, or on very cloudy days, your system will require an alternate source of energy.
The most common source is the mains electricity grid. On Grid Systems are able to freely switch between solar and mains power without interruption. This provides a reliable backup at night and enables you to be credited for excess electricity production during the day.
The other source of backup power is storage batteries or backup generators. Systems that use these are called Off Grid Systems. They are usually more complex to design and install and incur higher
upfront and ongoing maintenance costs.
For more information on the difference between On Grid and Off Grid Systems, take a look at this article we put together.
Do I need battery backup for my solar panels?Probably not. In most cases, connection to the mains utility grid provides more than enough backup power for your system. In regions where it is impossible to connect to the grid, batteries can be used.
Will my system produce backup electricity in a blackout?Not usually. In most countries on grid solar power systems are required to stop producing electricity in the case of a mains power failure. This is to protect the repair workers and speed up reconnection for everyone. Areas with regular power failures may consider upgrading their systems with backup batteries or generators.
Can I use photovoltaic (PV) solar panels to power my home?Yes. Photovoltaic PV solar kits can be used to generate all of the electricity required by a normal home, including lighting, heating, cooling and running normally rated household appliances. This can drastically lower your electricity bills and reduce your carbon usage.
Panels can be unobtrusively mounted on any type of roof or garage or even in your garden. For more information on how you can reduce your bills forever and invest in a green future, please get in touch with an advisor today.
Can I use a photovoltaic (PV) solar panels to power my business?Yes. PV solar systems can be built to meet any size power requirements whether running a small office, a commercial retail unit, warehouse, distribution centre or even an industrial manufacturing or production site.
Modern mounting systems allow panels to be fitted to any type of roof, wall or ground site, and even built into bus shelters and staff parking bays.
For more information on how you can use solar to reduce your overheads and slash your carbon usage get in touch with one of our engineers today.
How much electricity will my solar panels generate?The amount of electricity generated will depend on your location, weather conditions and peak hours of sunlight, the size and number of solar panels you choose and which direction they are facing.
It is generally best to decide on the minimum amount of electricity you would like to generate first and then let a professional calculate the type of system that will meet your needs. Consult an engineer.
How do I know if I have enough sunlight for solar PV panels?PV panels require unobstructed direct sunlight for the majority of the day. As long as there is no direct shading from nearby buildings, trees or other objects, there is usually enough sunlight available in most regions of the world.
Solar professionals are able to use geographic data to estimate the amount of sunlight your system is likely to receive and should always conduct a shade study early in the consultation process. Using this data, they will be able to consult you on the type of system that would best suit your needs.
Where can I find someone who designs, installs, and maintains solar panels?Solar Leading are specialists in designing custom PV solar power systems and delivering them anywhere in the world. For installation services, we would suggest contacting your closest authorized Solar Leading distributer, here.
We would always recommend collecting at least three quotations before deciding on any particular system. Whoever you choose to design and install your system, they should be able to provide you with contact details of previous customers so that you can assess the quality of their work for yourself.
Can I use solar panels heat my swimming pool?Yes. If you have an electrical heating system it can be attached to your solar power system.
Can I use solar panels to power agricultural water pumps?Yes. Solar power systems can be used to power AC and DC water pumps. All of our panels are tested to withstand high ammonia environments and are suitable for agricultural use.
Can solar panels power all of my normal 120v/240v appliances?Maybe, but do you really need to? If you are considering becoming your own power plant, every watt saved can decrease the cost of your investment. New advances in heating, cooling and lighting technology make it really easy to slash your electricity usage. Talk to one of our energy advisers to find out more: email@example.com
Will solar pv panels work in my location?Yes. As long as sunlight falls on your panels, they can produce electricity. However, some regions of the world have more hours of sunlight per day than others. For more information on peak sun hours take a look at this handy infographic we made, otherwise any professional installer will have access to geographical solar data and be able to advise you on the solar power potential at your address.
Are the panels fragile?Definitely not. All of our panels have been independently tested in simulations of the most extreme conditions. They have withstood pressure, wind, hail, sandstorm and sea spray tests and survived everything that was thrown at them. Nevertheless it is always best to treat your panels with care until they are safely in place in your array.
- 2Maintenance and Weather
What kind of maintenance is required on my panels?PV solar systems have no moving parts to worry about. The only thing that may cause problems is dirt, twigs or leaves on the modules. Normal rainfall is usually enough to keep them clean and functioning but occasionally they may need to be rinsed with a hose pipe. This is all that is required to maintain maximum electricity output.
Will my modules work in bad weather?Yes. Whilst shading of any kind will reduce the output of your system, it will still produce some power. A good system will be designed to take into account an average amount of bad weather days for your location.
Do solar panels work in cold climates?Yes. Whilst shading of any kind will reduce the output of your system, it will still produce some power. A good system will be designed to take into account an average amount of bad weather days for your location.
How will snow affect my panels performance?If snow blocks the light to the panels it will reduce the electricity produced but it will not damage the panels or the system. In fact, the heat produced by the panels should cause any snow to fall off naturally and return the system to full output quite quickly.
Will my pv panels withstand bad weather and storms?Yes. Solar Leading modules have been tested by the TUV in the most extreme conditions possible. They can withstand high wind, heavy snow loads, hail, sandstorms and salt water.
Will my panels produce any electricity on a cloudy day?Yes. Solar panels do not require direct sunlight to generate power, however any type of shading will decrease output considerably. A solar professional will always take into account local weather conditions when designing a system to give you an accurate estimate of how much power you will be able to produce.
Will shade affect the performance of my pv panels?Yes. Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity. Clearly less sunlight means less
What is not obvious though, is that even a small amount of shade e.g. a branch on a single panel, can seriously affect the output of the whole system. This is due to the way in which the cells are connected together inside the panels and the way that the panels are connected to each other within the system.
For this reason, it is important to site solar projects away from tall trees and obstructions that could shade any part of the array at any point in the day, throughout the year. Always ask a solar professional to undertake a thorough shade study before designing a solar power system.
Do you ship to my country?Yes, we have experience shipping around the world. Let us know your preferred port of delivery and we will be happy to provide you with a quotation.
How are modules protected during shipping?We pack our modules in international standard plywood or cardboard pv cartons with forklift feet and have never had a module damaged in transit.
How are modules protected during shipping?We process orders:
- – per module
- – per 20ft shipping container
- – per 40ft shipping container
Orders below the minimum order quantity (MOQ) will be charged a one-off sample fee.
Please ask one of our team for current price information at firstname.lastname@example.org
What are your payment terms?We accept TT (T/T) transfers of 30% of the full amount at the time of order and the remaining 70% before shipment. For smaller orders we also accept 100% of the total amount in advance.