If you are interested in incentives for PV systems for your home or business, please visit the: Go Solar California! Website.PV In Your Home
Almost all energy we use comes originally from the sun. Fossil fuels are plant and animal matter that decayed tens of millions of years ago and have been compressed and heated, turning into coal, oil, and gases. Of course, plants get energy from the sun and convert it through photosynthesis. Animals in turn eat plants, converting the stored energy into energy to keep themselves alive.
Wind is created because of differential heating of land and water areas by the sun, creating movement of air from one area to another. Geothermal energy is residual heat of the earth, which was created billions of years ago in the formation of the solar system. So, we can trace all energy back to the source...the nearest star, our sun.
But the Sun's energy can also be used directly...
In 1839, Edmond Becquerel discovered that certain materials produced small amounts of electric current when exposed to light. Not long after that, selenium photovoltaic cells were converting light to electricity at 1 to 2 percent efficiency. In 1954, D.M. Chapin, C.S. Fuller and G.L. Pearson, of Bell Laboratory, patented a way of making electricity directly from sunlight using silicon-based solar cells. The next year, the Hoffman Electronics-Semiconductor Division announced the first commercial photo voltaic product that was 2.0-percent efficient, priced at $25 per cell, at 14 milliwatts each, or $1,785 per watt (in 1955 dollars). By the mid-1960s, efficiency levels were nearing 10 percent.
We call modern-day devices that convert sunlight into energy photovoltaic cells, or "PVs" for short. More commonly, they're known as solar cells. We can find them on calculators, hats, sidewalk lighting systems, and alongside freeways to power phones for stranded motorists.
As an outgrowth of the space exploration and following the energy crises of the 1970s, PV development increased. In 1979, ARCO Solar began construction of the world's largest PV manufacturing facility in Camarillo, California. ARCO Solar was the first company to produce more than 1 megawatt of PV modules in one year. Four years later, ARCO Solar dedicated a 6 megawatt PV facility in central California in the Carrissa Plain. The 120-acre unmanned facility supplied the Pacific Gas and Electric Company utility grid with enough power for about 2,500 homes.
When large collections of PV panels or modules are put together, they can be tied into the electricity grid system. These can supply additional power to areas that need electricity, but costs for new transmission lines and substations are prohibitive. These type of systems are basically Utility-Scale Applications of Photovoltaics.
PV systems can also be used in homes, whether they are connected to the electricity grid or are in rural or remote locations. More about that on our other page.
If you are interested in incentives for PV systems for your home or business, please visit the: Go Solar California! Website.