People use the term “Solar Panels” all the time when referring to solar energy equipment. There are actually several types of panels that serve different purposes based upon the way they capture the Sun’s energy.
Photovoltaic Panels, “PV” are used for generating electricity. PV panels do not operate by capturing heat. Instead they generate an electric current when photons from the Sun excite electrons as they pass through the silicon solar cells.
“Cells” are the most basic components of a photovoltaic system. Multiple cells are connected together to form a PV “module,” the smallest solar component sold commercially. Photovoltaic modules, or solar panels, range in power output from about 10 watts to over 300 watts. When multiple modules are connected, they form a solar panel “array.” Arrays are arranged to allow the maximum energy capture. This usually means orienting the array to face South, although East and West facing arrays are common with only minor energy losses. In buildings, solar panel are most frequently installed on roofs, where there is the most exposure to sunlight and the least amount of intrusion on the aesthetic integrity of the building. Rooftops also present a ready built structure for mounting the panels, which results in lower installed cost. Along with the solar panels themselves, the typical PV system usually includes an inverter, a device that converts direct current (DC) energy into usable alternating current (AC), a DC disconnect, an AC disconnect, and sometimes a subpanel to supplement the main breaker panel.
South Coast Solar also offers battery back-up systems to be used for energy storage. Obviously, your system will only function during hours of sunlight. During the nighttime and during power outages, electricity must be obtained from either stored solar energy through batteries, or the commercial energy grid. The amount of system autonomy (reserve capacity) required for a solar system battery is dependent on its specific use. Because batteries add to the cost of a solar energy system and do not provide a return on investment it is most common today for solar energy systems to rely on the commercial utility grid for reserve energy. This is called a “Grid-tie” or “Grid-Interactive” solar energy system.