What is PV in Solar Energy

Joe Brennan
Jan 7, 2024

Have you ever wondered how sunlight transforms into electricity? This process lies at the heart of solar photovoltaics (PV), a groundbreaking technology in our journey towards sustainable energy. Solar PV isn't just a trendy term; it's a key player in our sustainable energy future. 

But what exactly is solar PV, and how does it function? In this blog, we'll dive into the basics of solar cells and take a look at the vast solar farms that are becoming more common. We'll explain how these systems capture the sun's power and turn it into electricity, and what this means for us.

So, let's embark on this enlightening journey into the world of solar PV!

The Growth of Solar PV:

In recent years, we've seen an incredible rise in the use of solar PV systems. Imagine a technology that was once a rare sight now becoming a common feature in many areas. This growth is not just about more panels shining under the sun; it's about a shift towards cleaner, renewable energy. Each new solar panel setup contributes to reducing reliance on traditional, polluting energy sources. 

These installations are more than just numbers; they represent a collective move towards a greener future. As prices for these systems have fallen, more people and businesses have embraced this eco-friendly power source. This boom in solar PV installations is not just good for the environment; it's also powering homes and businesses, big and small, with clean energy.

Understanding Solar Energy, Power, and Irradiance:

Solar energy is all about capturing the sun's rays and turning them into electricity. But how does this happen? It starts with solar panels, which are made up of many small units called cells. These cells have a special ability to take in sunlight and convert it into an electric current. The power that these panels generate depends on a few things, like how much sun they get and their size.

Types of PV Systems

Solar PV systems come in different types, each suited for different needs and situations. Let's look at two main types:

Grid-Connected PV Systems: 

These are the most common types of solar PV systems. Imagine a solar system that works together with the regular electricity grid. When your solar panels produce more electricity than you need, the extra power can be sent back to the grid. In return, when your panels aren’t producing enough (like on cloudy days), you can draw power from the grid. It's like having a give-and-take relationship with your electricity provider. These systems are popular because they are usually easier and less costly to set up compared to other types.

Off-Grid (Stand-Alone) PV Systems: 

These are for places where connecting to the electricity grid isn’t practical or possible. Think of a remote cabin in the woods or a standalone workshop. These systems are completely independent and often use batteries to store the electricity generated by the solar panels. This way, you have power available even when the sun isn’t shining. Off-grid systems are great for energy independence but tend to be more expensive due to the additional equipment like batteries and controllers needed to store and manage the power.

Each of these systems has its own benefits and is suitable for different situations. Whether you want to be connected to the grid or completely independent, there's a solar PV system that fits the bill.

Components of a PV System

A solar PV system is like a puzzle, made up of different pieces that work together to turn sunlight into electricity. Let's break down these key components:

Solar Panels: 

These are the most visible parts of the system. Solar panels are made up of many smaller units called solar cells. These cells capture sunlight and convert it into electricity. Panels come in various sizes and are often placed on rooftops or open areas where they can get plenty of sun.


This is the brain behind the operation. Solar panels produce a type of electricity called direct current (DC), but our homes and appliances use alternating current (AC). The inverter's job is to convert the DC electricity from the panels into AC electricity that we can use.

Mounting Structures: 

These are the supports that hold your solar panels in place. They can be on your roof or on the ground, and they are designed to position the panels in such a way that they get the maximum amount of sunlight.

Wiring and Electrical Components: 

Just like any electrical system, a solar PV system has wires and other components that safely transport electricity from the solar panels to the inverter, and then into your home or back to the grid.

Storage Batteries (Optional): 

For off-grid systems or grid-connected systems with a backup, batteries play a crucial role. They store the electricity generated by the panels for use when the sun isn’t shining, like at night or on cloudy days.

Charge Controller (for Off-Grid Systems): 

This component manages the power going into the batteries, protecting them from getting overcharged during sunny days, which can reduce their lifespan.

Design and Installation of PV Systems:

Designing and installing a solar PV system is a process that needs careful planning to ensure it works well and is safe. Here's a simple breakdown of the steps involved:

Assessing Your Needs: 

The first step is to figure out how much electricity you use. This helps in deciding the size of the solar system that's right for your home or business.

Site Assessment: 

Next, a professional will check out your location to see where the solar panels should go. They'll look at things like how much sun your roof gets and if there are any trees or buildings that might block the sun.

Choosing the Right Components: 

Based on your electricity needs and the site assessment, you'll choose the right solar panels, inverters, and other necessary equipment. It's like picking the pieces for your specific solar puzzle.

Mounting the Panels

The solar panels need to be mounted securely, either on your roof or on the ground. They should be angled to get the most sunlight throughout the day.

Electrical Wiring: 

This step involves connecting all the solar panels to the inverter and then to your home’s electrical system. This needs to be done by a professional to make sure it’s safe and meets all electrical codes.

Connecting to the Grid (for Grid-Connected Systems): 

If your system is grid-connected, it will be linked to the public electricity grid. This allows you to use electricity from the grid when your panels aren't producing enough, and vice versa.

Testing and Commissioning: 

Once everything is installed, the system is tested to make sure it’s working correctly. This is like a final check-up to ensure everything is set up perfectly.

Maintenance Plan: 

After installation, it's good to have a plan for regular maintenance. This keeps your system running smoothly and helps catch any issues early.

Applications and Potential of Solar PV

Solar PV systems are incredibly versatile, making them useful in many different situations. Here’s how they’re being used and the potential they hold

Home Electricity: 

This is the most common use of solar PV. Panels installed on rooftops or in yards can generate electricity to power everything in a home, from lights to appliances. It's a great way to cut down on electricity bills and reduce your carbon footprint.

Businesses and Commercial Buildings: 

Similar to homes, businesses of all sizes are using solar PV to power their operations. It’s not only eco-friendly but can also significantly reduce operating costs over time.

Remote Areas and Off-Grid Applications: 

Solar PV is a game-changer for remote areas where connecting to the electricity grid is difficult or impossible. It brings power to remote homes, schools, and clinics, improving lives and providing opportunities for development.

Agriculture and Water Pumps: 

Solar PV systems can be used to run water pumps for irrigation, helping farmers in areas without reliable access to electricity. This is a sustainable and cost-effective solution for agriculture.

Street Lighting and Public Spaces

Solar-powered lights are increasingly used in parks, streets, and other public spaces. They’re easy to install and maintain, and they don’t require extensive wiring.

Large-Scale Solar Farms: 

These are vast areas covered with solar panels, generating large amounts of electricity that are fed into the grid. They are an important part of the move towards renewable energy on a large scale.

Portable and Emergency Power

Portable solar chargers and solar-powered generators are handy for camping trips or as backup power sources during power outages.


While still in its early stages, solar power is beginning to be integrated into electric vehicles and public transportation systems, offering a clean, renewable source of energy for mobility.

The potential of solar PV is vast. As technology improves and costs continue to drop, we can expect even more innovative uses and an increasing role in our journey towards sustainable energy. It’s a technology that not only powers our daily lives but also protects our planet.

The Future of Solar PV:

The future of solar PV is bright and full of potential. As we move forward, here's what we can expect:

More Efficient Technology: 

Scientists and engineers are constantly working to make solar panels more efficient. This means they'll be able to convert more sunlight into electricity than ever before. In the future, smaller and more efficient panels could power our homes and businesses.

Lower Costs: 

As the technology improves and becomes more widespread, the cost of solar PV systems is expected to continue dropping. This will make solar power more accessible to a wider range of people, not just those who can afford a big upfront investment.

Integration into Buildings: 

Imagine buildings with solar cells integrated into windows, roofs, and even walls. This concept, known as building-integrated photovoltaics, will likely become more common, turning entire buildings into power generators.

Advances in Storage: 

Better battery technology will make it easier to store solar energy for use when the sun isn’t shining. This is key to making solar power a reliable source of energy day and night, even in less sunny weather.

Wider Applications: 

We'll see solar power being used in more ways, from powering electric vehicles to large-scale solar farms that can provide electricity for many homes and businesses.

Sustainability in Production: 

As the demand for solar panels grows, there's a focus on making their production more environmentally friendly and sustainable. This includes recycling old panels and finding greener ways to produce new ones.

Government Policies and Incentives: 

With growing concerns about climate change, many governments are likely to introduce more policies and incentives to encourage the use of solar power. This could include subsidies, tax breaks, and support for research and development.

Global Impact: Solar PV will play a crucial role in providing clean energy globally, especially in developing countries where access to electricity is still a challenge.


Solar PV stands as a beacon of sustainable energy, offering a clean, efficient way to harness the sun's power for our everyday needs. From powering homes and businesses to revolutionising energy access in remote areas, solar PV systems present a versatile and eco-friendly solution. 

As technology advances and costs decrease, the potential for solar PV continues to expand, making it more accessible than ever. The future shines bright with the promise of increased efficiency and broader applications, driving us towards a greener, more sustainable world. 

If you're considering a step towards renewable energy, now is a fantastic time to reach out to Going Solar and embrace the benefits of solar PV in your life.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between grid-tied and off-grid solar?

Grid-tied systems connect to the public utility grid and use it for energy storage, eliminating the need for batteries. Off-grid systems are independent, requiring batteries for energy storage, and useful in areas without grid access​​.

What are the components of a solar energy system?

Key components include solar panels (to capture sun energy), an inverter (to convert energy to a usable form), and racking (the foundation for mounting). Battery-based systems also need batteries (for storage) and a charge controller (to manage battery charging)​​.

How long will my solar system last?

Solar panels typically come with a 25-year warranty, setting the benchmark for system lifespan. However, other parts, like inverters and batteries may have shorter warranties and may need replacement during the system's life​​.

Is solar power cheaper than grid power?

Yes, solar power is generally cheaper than grid power for many consumer categories. It's a one-time investment with a fixed energy price for about 25 years, in contrast to the annually increasing grid tariffs​​.

Define the terms: Return on Investment (ROI) and payback period for solar PV?

The payback period is the time it takes for the initial investment in a solar system to be recovered from savings. ROI refers to the effective returns generated over the solar system's lifespan​​.

What factors are important to consider during Solar PV system installation?

Important factors include choosing a reputable installer, ensuring the material quality matches what was promised, and considering aspects like plant layout, system design, and equipment quality​​.

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*FYI, parts of this blog post were drafted by artificial technlogy. But rest assured, it's been thoroughly researched, edited, reviewed and me & my team.
Author Fahad Zahid
Founder @ Going Solar

Joe Brennan, the founder of Going Solar, is dedicated to making solar power mainstream in Ireland and meet SEAI objectives. With a focus on affordability and sustainability, he is bringing renewable energy solutions to homes, reducing costs & environmental impact.