Photovoltaic panels are a highly efficient way of lowering your electricity bills. If you had these installed, you would be generating your own electricity, therefore you would not need to pay for as much energy.
In fact, you could be getting paid for producing your own electricity! If you join the scheme, your energy provider pays you for every unit of electricity which you produce, and any electricity you produce but don’t use yourself can be sold back to the national grid.
Photovoltaic basically means converting light to electricity, with “photo” meaning light and “voltaic” meaning electricity. So I guess you could say that they do what is said on the tin, so to speak.
Back in the 1950’s, this technology was almost exclusively used for powering electrical circuits in satellites, but the range of uses for solar energy has grown considerably now, for example we now use it for calculators, electric vehicle charging stations. On a bright and sunny day, the sun can produce up to 1000 watts of energy per square meter of the surface of the planet, if we could harness this, we could easily power our homes and offices for free.
Photovoltaic cells are made of special materials, which are known as semiconductors, such as silicon which is currently the most commonly used. The flow of electrons from sunlight creates the current, and by placing, metal contacts either side of the photovoltaic cell, we can draw that current off of the panel for external use, powering things which require electrical energy. This current, together with the cells voltage defines the wattage which the solar cell can produce.The panels don’t necessarily need direct sunlight, therefore they would work on cloudy days as well as sunny ones.
Architects are beginning to suggest using these sorts of technologies when designing projects for clients, as what they would pay for the installation now would be saved many times over as time goes on.
Written by Jade Turney – Building Tectonics.