• PV systems can be broadly split into three groups, those with a battery for energy storage (off-grid), batteryless systems like solar water pumps and grid-connected systems (on-grid, also batteryless). The latter is by far the largest PV market in developed countries, direct current (DC) generated by the PV array is converted to alternating current (AC) at mains voltage & frequency (230Vac, 50Hz) by a grid-synchronous inverter and fed directly into a building’s electrical network. If there is an immediate requirement for that energy then it is used to power whatever appliances are in operation, if not then it is “exported” into the supply network via an export meter where suppliers will buy it back at the same rate that you pay for imported electricity (eg SWEB Green Tariff). With grid-connected systems you can think of the grid as your energy store, exporting during the day and importing at night.
  • At present the PV industry is relatively small in global terms and thus the economies of scale have yet to significantly affect the cost of producing high grade silicon for PV modules. The vision held by many environmental groups and the PV industry is that one day all houses will have roofs made from PV modules, replacing traditional materials and generating significant amounts of clean energy.
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