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|A 3 kW photovoltaic panel array|
Photovoltaics (PV) is a method of generating electrical power by converting solar radiation into direct current electricity using semiconductors that exhibit the photovoltaic effect. Photovoltaic power generation employs solar panels comprising a number of cells containing a photovoltaic material. Materials presently used for photovoltaics include monocrystalline silicon, polycrystalline silicon, amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride, and copper indium selenide/sulfide. Due to the growing demand for renewable energy sources, the manufacturing of solar cells and photovoltaic arrays has advanced considerably in recent years.
As of 2010, solar photovoltaics generates electricity in more than 100 countries and, while yet comprising a tiny fraction of the 4.8 TW total global power-generating capacity from all sources, is the fastest growing power-generation technology in the world. Between 2004 and 2009, grid-connected PV capacity increased at an annual average rate of 60 percent, to some 21 GW. Such installations may be ground-mounted (and sometimes integrated with farming and grazing) or built into the roof or walls of a building, known as Building Integrated Photovoltaics or BIPV for short. Off-grid PV accounts for an additional 3–4 GW.
Driven by advances in technology and increases in manufacturing scale and sophistication, the cost of photovoltaics has declined steadily since the first solar cells were manufactured. Net metering and financial incentives, such as preferential feed-in tariffs for solar-generated electricity, have supported solar PV installations in many countries.
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- German PV market
- BP Solar to Expand Its Solar Cell Plants in Spain and India
- Large-Scale, Cheap Solar Electricity
- REN21. Renewables 2010 Global Status Report p. 19.
- GE Invests, Delivers One of World's Largest Solar Power Plants
- Building integrated photovoltaics
- Richard M. Swanson. Photovoltaics Power Up, Science, Vol. 324, 15 May 2009, p. 891.