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What are PV (Photovoltaic) Solar Panels?

What is PV?

PV stands for 'photovoltaic', photo means light and voltaic refers to volt, a unit of electrical force. Put simply, Photovoltaic is the creation of a voltage in a material when it is exposed to the light.

How does PV work?

Solar electricity systems capture the suns energy using photovoltaic (PV) cells. The cells convert the sunlight into electricity via an inverter which converts the generated electricity from Direct Current (DC) into usable Alternating Current (AC) for use in the home for things like appliances and lighting. A solar panel system is connected to the electrics in your home and therefore to the National grid. Each cell is made up of one or two layers of semiconducting material, usually silicon. When light shines on the cell it creates an electric field across the layers. The stronger the sunshine the more electricity that is produced. The strength of the PV cells are measured in kilowatt peak (kWp). Here's an illustration which explains how PV works.

Illustration depicting Feed in Tariffs (FITs)working with a PV Solar Panel system

How do I use the electricity that is produced?

Once the electricity is converted into AC electricity via the inverter the electricity can be used to power appliances and lighting throughout your home. Any electricity that you have produced that you do not use will automatically get sold back to your supplier via the National Grid and you will receive an export tariff for this. For more information on this see our sections on the benefits of PV Solar Panels and on ‘Feed in Tariffs’ (FITS).

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