Solar Evolution Essay

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Evolution of the Panels

Solar power is not a new concept—two thousands years ago our ancestors would concentrate the sun’s heat with glass or mirrors to light fires or heat water. It wasn’t until 1839 that Edmond Becquerel, a French scientist, discovered what is known as the “photovoltaic (PV) effect,” (US DOE EERE). While experimenting with an electrolytic cell that consisted of two metal electrodes placed in an electricity-conducting solution, he noticed that electricity-generation increased when exposed to light. During the 19th and 20th centuries, global researchers experimented with selenium solar cells and cadmium sulfide (CdS), but a silicon PV cell that could convert sunlight into enough power to run electrical equipment was only
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Traditional solar cells are flat-plate, made from silicon, and usually the most efficient and commonly used (NREL). For a typical home system, around 40 cells are grouped together to form a PV panel or a module and typically 10 to 20 modules are wired together on a south-facing rooftop in an arrangement known as a solar array (NREL). This array connects to an inverter, which converts the power into a form that is supplied by utilities. New innovations in the technology are second- and third-generation solar cells, which are made from scarce or organic materials that are often more expensive. Second-generation cells, or thin-film solar cells, are made from amorphous silicon or nonsilicon materials, such as cadmium telluride, and are quite flexible (NREL). Third-generation cells are made from a variety of materials, such as small molecules, polymers, conductive plastics or perovskite. Recently, research in the third-generation cells has significant increased, due to their great potential and limited stability (plasticphotovoltaics.org). Solar panel manufacturers now are key to the solar power industry and are investing in research and development to create the most cost-effective and efficient

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