Solar (photovoltaic) Panels
Photovoltaic (PV) panels convert solar energy (light) into electrical
energy (electricity). They accoplish this by channeling free electrons
( freed by light striking the panel surface ) into a current path that
eventually leads to the output wires of the solar panel. Modern solar panels
convert light to electricity with about 5% to 15% efficiency, with most
of the light being relected or absorbed in the form of heat.
Made up of a series of individual solar cells, solar panels come in many
sizes and configurations. Most panels in the home power industry range
from 20 - 120 watts power output in full sun. When operated in shaded or
overcast conditions, power output will drop drastically. Even shading one
cell can reduce the power output of a solar panel to a "shadow"
of it's former self, with different brands and configurations of panels
being more or less affected depending on design.
For best performance, solar panels should be mounted in such a way that
the surface of the panel will be more or less perpendicular to the sun's
rays, either on a fixed or sun tracking mounting structure. The mounting
area should be free of obstructions that could even partially shade the
panels, and they should be effectively secured to prevent shifting under
any expected condition.