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What Is the Difference Between Solar Panels And Photovoltaic Cells?

Sep 10, 2021

Soneva Fushi PV-Diesel Hybrid System

Soneva Fushi PV-Diesel Hybrid System

Are you confused about the difference between solar panels and photovoltaic cells? Although often used interchangeably, solar panels and batteries are two very different parts of a solar PV system. To find out the difference between the two, and how to use the terms correctly, read on.


The role of a PV cell

To begin with, we will first examine the role of photovoltaic cells in your solar PV system. Your solar cell generates electricity through the photovoltaic effect, in which sunlight generates electricity in certain materials by causing external electrons to be loosened.


Photovoltaic panels can be made from mono- or polycrystalline materials and consist of multiple layers, the most important of which are the two semiconductors in the middle. The top semiconductor is the negative layer, as the atoms of the material contain additional electrons which carry a negative charge. In contrast, the bottom semiconductor is the positive layer, because the material's atoms lack electrons.


When sunlight hits the top semiconductor, the loose electrons are excited, knocked loose, and then attracted to the positive layer below. A barrier forms between the two layers as the conductors on both layers force the electrons to travel around the cell, thus creating a current. The conductors then force that currently out of the cell and into an electrical load which captures the energy produced by your PV cell. The electrons eventually re-enter the cell and the process is repeated.

Soneva Fushi PV-Diesel Hybrid System 

Soneva Fushi PV-Diesel Hybrid System

The role of solar panels

As photovoltaic cells can only produce a limited amount of energy, a number of cells are connected to form a solar panel. Multiple solar cells working in tandem produce higher currents and therefore more energy. In addition, by sealing multiple cells together, your panel acts as a protective shell for the presence of the cells. This means that your solar cells are less susceptible to damage from external elements, including bad weather such as hail*.


The direct current generated by the solar panels is then directed to your central inverter (or micro-inverter, depending on your system setup) where it is converted into alternating current that can be used by your home and appliances. The number of cells in your panel depends on the particular brand and size you choose, although 60 and 72 cells in a single panel are common. Another term you may encounter, PV array, is used only to describe a system consisting of multiple PV panels.


As you can see, both PV cells and panels are integral and closely connected parts of a solar PV system. Photovoltaic cells are the main components that make up a solar panel, and solar panels are the essential components that make up a solar energy system. While individual PV cells are able to convert sunlight into electricity on their own, the panel is essential for combining the energy output of the many cells and directing it to the inverter and the home.


Soneva Fushi PV-Diesel Hybrid System

This solar-diesel hybrid power system is located on Soneva Fushi island which is a really nice luxury resort in the Maldives. Since the local diesel price is fairly high, the system integrates photovoltaic and diesel power generation together to reduce power costs. With the current configuration, PV generation would reduce around 25% daily consumption of the island, and the investment can be recovered in less than 4 years.

If you want to know more information about photovoltaic solar systems, welcome to contact us.