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Photo of roof shingles that are coated with PV cells.

These roof shingles are coated with PV cells made of amorphous silicon. When installation is complete, the PV shingles look much like ordinary roofing shingles, but they generate electricity.

The U.S. Department of Energy works to provide clean, reliable, affordable solar electricity for the nation through its research programs in photovoltaic (PV) energy systems. The following pages explain the "how's" and "why's" of PV. Whether you are a student, builder, consumer, engineer, or researcher, there is something here for you.

Photovoltaic technology makes use of the abundant energy in the sun, and it has little impact on our environment. Photovoltaics can be used in a wide range of products, from small consumer items to large commercial solar electric systems.

Our goal is to ensure that photovoltaic energy systems make an important contribution to the energy needs of our nation and the world. In these pages, you will learn about DOE's R&D in photovoltaic energy systems, and much more. You will also find out—

Photo of a researcher at a DOE laboratory using a physical vapor deposition system.
A researcher at a DOE laboratory uses a physical vapor deposition system to create a high-efficiency copper indium gallium diselenide solar cell.

Photo of NASA's Mariner 5 in flight.
Mariner 5 is shown in flight. Photovoltaic systems were an important power source for that mission. Solar cells have not only enabled America to explore space, the solar system, and the Earth in great detail, they also have enabled the emergence of the telecommunications industry. (Credit: NASA and NSSDC Photo Gallery)