Many people don’t know the difference between photovoltaic cells and solar panels. Although used interchangeably on your solar PV system, these two are entirely different. In this article, we will take an in-depth look at what is the difference between photovoltaic and solar panels. We will also help you figure out how to use the two terms correctly.
The function of the photovoltaic cells
To help you understand what photovoltaic cells are, we need to examine their role in your solar PV system. Your solar cells use the photovoltaic effect (sunlight knocking outer electrons of certain materials loose thereby transforming to electricity) to produce electricity.
The photovoltaic cells are produced from polycrystalline and monocrystalline materials. Usually, they consist of several layers with two semiconductors placed at the center. The bottom semiconductor has missing electrons making it the positive layer. The top semiconductor, however, contains extra electrons making it the negative charge.
When the top semiconductor gets hit by sunlight, the loose electrons get discharged to the bottom positive layer. There will be a barrier formed between the negative and positive plates because the semiconductors force the electrons to go around cells. An electric current is, therefore, created as the loose electrons force their way to the bottom semiconductors.
The conductors will then transmit the formed current into the electric load. The process gets repeated when the electrons reenter the cell. It is a simple process that ensures you get sufficient electricity for your needs.
The function of the solar panels
Understand that the photovoltaic cells can only manage to generate a small amount of energy. You will need numerous cells connected to get sufficient electricity. When linked together, multiple solar cells will generate higher currents and more power. The solar panel is, therefore, numerous cells connected to produce more energy.
The panel also helps to create a protective case that ensures the cells can exist without getting damaged. Certain weather conditions such as hail can be quite damaging if your cells are left exposed. Solar panels are made from durable material to give you a long-lasting model.
Your solar panels will generate DC electricity that gets directed to the central inverter. Here, it is converted to AC, thus ensuring that you can use it with the home appliances. Your system set up will dictate the amount of power that you get in your home.
Panels have a different number of cells within them, depending on the size and brand. Most manufacturers, however, prefer using 72 or 60 cells in a single panel.
What is a photovoltaic array?
You may have come across a different term in many platforms-photovoltaic arrays. This is simply a system that contains multiple PV panels.
Solar panels and photovoltaic cells are parts of the solar PV system that are closely connected. The main component of your solar panel is the photovoltaic cells. However, the main component of your solar system is the solar panels.
Although a single photovoltaic cell can produce electricity on its own, you need the solar panel to generate enough power for your home.