'Photovoltaic' is a marriage of two words: 'photo', meaning light, and 'voltaic', meaning electricity. Photovoltaic panels form part of a solar PV system, creating energy from sunlight.
What is "Photovoltaic Technology"?
"Photovoltaic technology" is the term used to describe the hardware that converts solar energy into usable power, generating electricity from light.
At the heart of photovoltaic (otherwise known as PV) technology is a semi-conductor material which can be adapted to release electrons, the negatively charged particles that form the basis of electricity. The most common semi-conductor material used in photovoltaic cells is silicon, an element most commonly found in sand. There is no limitation to its availability as a raw material; silicon is the second most abundant material in the earth's mass.
Photovoltaic panels are made up or a series of cells. All these cells have two layers of semi-conductors, one positively charged and one negatively charged. When light shines on the semi-conductor, the electric field across the junction between these two layers causes electricity to flow, generating DC (direct current). The greater the intensity of the light, the greater the flow of electricity.
A photovoltaic system does not need bright sunlight in order to operate. It can also generate electricity on cloudy days. Due to the reflection of sunlight, days with slight cloud can even result in higher energy yields than days with a completely cloudless sky.
With South Africa's record of long sunny days, photovoltaic technology is the perfect way to generate power from such an abundent source.
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