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What exactly is photovoltaic and how do the many solar collectors on the roofs of houses actually work?

What is photovoltaics?

Photovoltaic is the direct conversion of the sun’s energy into electrical energy using solar cells. Solar cells consist of two layers, one on top of the other, mostly made of crystalline silicon. Because the two silicon layers are mixed with different materials such as boron and phosphorous, they have different electrical properties. In the so-called boundary layer there exists an electrical field with positive and negative poles. When sunlight falls onto the boundary layer, it produces what is known as a “photovoltaic effect.” As this occurs, electrons absorb energy from light photons, release themselves from the crystalline bond, and move towards the positive pole. The flowing direct current can be converted to alternating current, used by a consumer, or fed into the public power grid.

Austria in comparison

The number of new PV installations is increasing rapidly around the world. In 2013, the globally installed total PV output was about 135 gigawatts. The largest PV markets are currently China, Japan, and the United States. In Europe, Germany leads the pack with 35 gigawatts of total installed output. Austria currently has photovoltaic systems with a total output of more than 600 megawatts.

Safety for PV systems

Wind turbines generate power only when the wind blows. As a result, the power supply from wind turbines is irregular. This can endanger the reliability of the supply and the stability of the networks. The challenge consists of, on one hand, adapting consumption to generation, and on the other hand adapting reserves to controllable generation capacities. In other words, it is a ongoing balancing act. TELE develops monitoring solutions that protect both people and equipment and improve network stability so renewable energies can be generated safely and integrated into the public power grid.

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Stephanie Windhager
Stephanie Windhager Innovation

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