Solar PV & Solar Thermal

Photovoltaic cells are the most promising technology for renewable energy production. They are the sole technology which relies directly on the primary energy source – the Sun – without “intermediaries”.

Photovoltaic cells are most commonly made from silicon crystal, which is doped with impurities of boron or phosphorus to create zones having opposite polarities (p and n zones). Upon exposure to sunlight, on the border between these zones (the p-n junction) an electrical field is created. It generates direct voltage in the range of 0.5-0.6 VDC between the poles of the cell. This voltage is not sufficient to be used for commercial electricity generation purposes. That’s why cells are connected with one another in strings and photovoltaic modules to generate higher voltages and currents.

Cells are made from different materials. The four basic types of mass-produced cells are:

·         Monocrystalline cells – they are the most commonly used. Monocrystalline cells are manufactured from very pure silicon crystal having regular crystal lattice. The crystal is sliced into thin discs, called wafers, which are just 0.2 mm thick. The wafers are then used to produce cells themselves. The mass-produced monocrystalline cells have efficiency of 13-18%. The efficiency of the PV modules is slightly lower and in this case is about 11-16%. The monocrystalline cells are the most efficient type, but their production is the most energy-intensive and expensive. As the temperature of the cell increases (as a result of direct sunlight), the efficiency decreases.

·         Polycrystalline cells – they are also made from pure silicon crystal. The silicon is melted and then cooled in a crucible in a controlled manner. Thus an irregular crystal is formed. The mass-produced polycrystalline cells have an efficiency of 15-17%.

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