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The Sun as a Resource

All life on earth is supported by the sun. It is the basic resource not only for photovoltaics (PV), but all solar energy systems. It works like this: at its core the sun fuses hydrogen into helium, radiates energy outward to the surface of the sun — or photosphere — and out into space in the form of heat and light. We call this solar radiation. Only about half of this solar radiation makes it to the Earth's surface. The rest is either absorbed or reflected by clouds and the atmosphere. Still, we receive enough power from the sun to meet the power demands of all mankind — millions of times over.


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Photovoltaic solar cells enable tapping some of this energy.


Photovoltaic Solar Cells


Photovoltaic cells are the basic building blocks of a PV system. Since a single cell does not supply enough electricity on its own, these cells must work together. First, cells are connected electrically in series and parallel circuits to produce higher voltages, then sealed in a protective laminate. These grouped cells are called modules. Modules are then assembled as a pre-wired unit referred to as a panel. It is the grouping, or array of, solar panels that posses the ability to convert solar energy into a usable amount of direct current (DC) electricity.


Solar energy access technology keeps developing.


Real world example


Improvements are being discovered by people from all walks of life — and all ages. Take William Yuan, for instance. Yuan is a twelve-year-old boy from Beaverton, Oregon, USA who began studying three-dimensional (3D) solar cells in his spare time. 3D solar cells are engineered to be free-standing, collecting light in three dimensions. Building upon research by Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, and a PSU nanotechnology lab, Yuan happened upon a solar cell that can harness both visible and ultraviolet light. His project "A Highly-Efficient 3-Dimensional Nanotube Solar Cell for Visible and UV Light" may be the key to manufacturing solar panels that are hundreds of times more efficient than traditional solar panels. Source: www.KATUcom.


Use by permission from: Solar Photovoltaic Installation Manual
© Copyright 2009 by David Brueggemann. All rights reserved.


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The Sun as a Resource :  Created on January 15th, 2015.  Last Modified on June 23rd, 2015


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About Dave Brueggemann

One of the most accomplished solar and renewable energy engineers in the USA, Dave Brueggemann has been involved in some aspect of solar energy for over thirty years.  He has been responsible for the start-up, profitability, and growth of a renewable energy company specializing in solar hot water, micro-hydro, wind, and photovoltaic systems. Dave has also participated in the development of web-based solar system controls.  He has been awarded contracts on several Idaho schools to install solar grid-tied photovoltaic systems for student education for Idaho Power that were completed in 2010. His award-winning participation in the design and installation of the  first solar night-lighting system for Nordic skiing in the United States paved the way for other such systems. He has also innovated new solar thermal delivery systems for hot water heating, solar light pole, and solar control panels. Among other projects, Dave is designing and implementing a 50 MW solar farm and consulting on a 4.5-megawatt battery system for a lodge in central Idaho. His book, Solar Photovoltaic Installation Manual, was published in 2009. Visit:



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