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PV System Design and Installation. LO 5A - PV Module Fundamentals. PV Module Fundamental (15\% of test questions). 5.1. Explain how a solar cell converts sunlight into electric power 5.2. Label key points on a typical IV curve

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pv system design and installation

PV System Design and Installation

LO 5A - PV Module Fundamentals

pv module fundamental 15 of test questions
PV Module Fundamental (15% of test questions)

5.1. Explain how a solar cell converts sunlight into electric power

5.2. Label key points on a typical IV curve

5.3. Identify key output values of solar modules using manufacturer literature

5.4. Illustrate effect of environmental conditions on IV curve

5.5. Illustrate effect of series/parallel connections on IV curve

5.6. Define measurement conditions for solar cells and modules (STC, NOCT, PTC)

5.7. Compute expected output values of solar module under variety of environmental conditions

5.8. Compare the construction of solar cells of various manufacturing technologies

5.9. Compare the performance and characteristics of various cell technologies

5.10. Describe the components and construction of a typical flat plate solar module

5.11. Calculate efficiency of solar module

5.12. Explain purpose and operation of bypass diode

5.13. Describe typical deterioration/failure modes of solar modules

5.14. Describe the major qualification tests and standards for solar modules

Shading issues

Sun –

Radiant Energy

PV module

Silicon Atom

Four electrons in outer shell

Reference 3

Step 1 – Photoelectric effect

When sunlight (photon) hits silicon atom, an electron in its outer shell can be “liberated” and start moving throughout the crystalline structure.

A “hole” with a positive charge is “left” behind at the silicon atom that lost its electron.

Recombination - Eventually free electron combines with another hole.

Reference 3

Step 2 – Doping process

Doping - Process of adding impurities to prevent

free electrons randomly “moving” in PV cell.

addition of phosphorus
Addition of Phosphorus

Addition of phosphorous creates

N-type (negative) semiconductor material

addition of boron
Addition of Boron

Addition of boron creates

P-type (positive) semiconductor material

electrical field at p n junction
Electrical Field at P/N Junction

Reference 3

Free electrons from phosphorus atom cross over to fill “holes” in boron atoms. This creates a permanent electric field at p/n junction.

space charge zone
Space Charge Zone

Depletion Region

Typical PV Cell

Reference 2

How PV Cells Work Illustration


Solar Cell Types

Silicone Crystalline Cells

a) Monocrystalline

b) Polycrystalline

Thin Layer Cells

a) Amorphous silicon

b) CIS

c) CdTe

Reference 2

Crystalline Silicone



Reference 2

Advantages / Disadvantages of Cell Types

Crystalline Silicone

Highest cell efficiencies

Well established manufacturing technology

Durable product

Thin Film Cells


Less efficient than crystalline silicon

Harder to control / MPPT tracking devices

(flatter IV curve)


Wider spectral response (sunlight wavelengths)

More efficient at low irradiance levels

Use less energy and material to produce

More flexible than crystalline silicone

More tolerant of shading issues

Typical PV module energy losses

Typical Polycrystalline Cell Efficiency

PV output = 12 to 15%

Solar Irradiance

3% - Reflection and shading by

front contacts

23% - Insufficient photon energy

of long-wave radiation

32% - Surplus of photo energy

of short wave radiation

8.5% - Recombination losses

20% - Electrical gradient in cell,

especially in space charge zone

0.5% - Due to serial resistance

(electric heat loss)

Reference 2