What is Solar Power, or Solar Photovoltaic Power (Solar PV)?


Albert Einstein is commonly remembered for breakthrough theories on general and special relativity. But did you know that prior to changing our understanding of the atom, he won the nobel prise for physics for explaining the photoelectric effect?

Electricity is created when sunlight impacting a specially designed cell “pushes” an electron into a conducting material. Solar cells are organised in an array, interconnected and then framed to create a solar module or panel.

There are a variety of competing technologies for making solar cells with the most common types being cells based on silicon polycrystalline wafers and silicon monocrystalline wafers. Known as Poly and Mono these comprise the vast majority of panels installed in Australia.

Typically solar PV modules used for residential systems come in two main formats:

  • 72 small cells in an array of 6x12. This panel format emerged in 2005 and has been widely used up to 2012 for residential installations. They are approximately 81cm wide by 158cm tall and weigh 15-16kgs depending on frame, glass and wafer thicknesses. These panels have evolved to be now outputting up to 200Watts peak rating.
  • 60 150mm wide cells arranged in a 6x10 array. This size panel has become the main panel footprint used and is larger and heavier than the 72 cell panels. They are approximately 100cm by 165cm and close 20kgs in weight. These cells output from 220Watts to 260 Watts depending on cell and module efficiency.