Did you know?

The most common semi conductor material used in photovoltaic cells is silicon, an element commonly found in sand. There is no limitation to its availability as a raw material, it is the second most abundant material in the earth’s mass


So how does Solar PV Work?


A Solar PV system can be basically broken down into:

Cells - which form the basic building blocks of the unit, collecting the sun’s light;

Modules - which bring together large numbers of cells into a unit;

Inverter - used to convert the electricity generated into a form suitable for everyday use.



Solar PV cells convert light into electrical power using a thin layer of semi-conducting material, usually silicon, between a sheet of glass and a polymer resin. When exposed to daylight, electrons in the semi-conducting material become energised.

These electrons flow through the material generating a direct current (DC). Solar PV Cells range in size from a few square centimetres, for example on calculators and watches, to systems of hundreds of square metres made from interconnected modules, this is known as an array.

more about cells

The performance of a solar cell is measured in terms of its efficiency at turning sunlight into electricity. A typical commercial solar cell has an efficiency of 15%, although this is constantly improving.

There are a number of different technologies availablebut Solar PV cells are generally made either from crystalline silicon, sliced from ingots or castings, from grown ribbons or thin film, deposited in thin layers on a low-cost backing

The most common type on the market today are made from Crystalline silicon technology. Their efficiency ranges between 12% and 17%.

There are three main types:

• ‘Monocrystalline’ cells are made of thin slices cut from a single crystal of silicon, monocrystaline are often more efficient than polycrystalline panels but in practice this only means that a monocrystaline panel will be slightly smaller than its polycrystalline equivalent. Monocrystaline cells need to be held rigid in a frame.

• ‘Polycrystalline’ (or Multicrystalline) are made from thin slices cut from a block of silicon crystalsand have a marble-like appearance. Polycrystalline cells can be cheaper to produce. Polycrystaline cells need to be held rigid in a frame

Amorphous also known as Thin Film modules, are constructed by depositing very thin layers of amorphous (non-crystalline) silicon onto a low-cost backing such as glass, stainless steel or plastic. Thin film technology means lower production costs compared to the more material intensive crystalline technology, however this price advantage is currently outweighed by substantially lower efficiency rates (from 5% to 13%). Amorphus panels can be flexible if they are manufactured using a flexible backing.

Other cell types

There are several other types of photovoltaic technologies developed today starting to be commercialised or still at the research level, the main ones are:

Concentrated photovoltaic

Some solar cells are designed to operate with concentrated sunlight. These cells are built into concentrating collectors that use a lens to focus the sunlight onto the cells. The main idea is to use very little of the expensivesemiconducting PV material while collecting as muchsunlight as possible. Efficiencies are in the range of20 to 30%.

Flexible cells

Based on a similar production process to thin film cells, when the active material is deposited in a thin plastic, the cell can be flexible. This opens the range of applications, especially for building integration (roofs-tiles) and end-consumer applications.


A Solar PV module is formed of a number of Solar PV cells. The Solar PV cells are fragile and require rigidity and protection and the housing module provides this.  These Solar PV modules are what is known as a Solar PV Panel. Several solar panels together form an array.


The solar PV panels produce a Direct Current or DC. This current is carried through wiring to an inverter, this converts the current to a useful 230V alternating current (AC) so it can be connected to your home’s main electricity supply. An inverter should last in excess of 10 years and inverters are now coming onto the market with 20 year warranties

How much energy can I generate?

Contact Details

S Magill Contracts
2 Drumgask Rd,
County Armagh,
BT65 5DY




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