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Photovoltaic is the direct conversion of solar energy into electrical energy with the help of solar cells.
Photovoltaic systems are put together by several solar modules which in turn consist of individual solar cells. These are wired in series, which means that the output in each solar cell gets added.
Solar modules are the most expensive part of a photovoltaic system. In order to guarantee the longest possible service life of the system (between 20 and 30 years depending on the supplier) you should pay attention to the quality and high efficiency of the solar modules when you buy them. One distinguishes between two solar modules:
Crystalline solar modules are used fairly frequently in private households. Here the following rule applies: the thicker the glass, the more solid the cell. For common photovoltaic systems for private households with a productivity of 1 to 3 kWh an area of 8–22 m² (depending on the productivity of the system) is needed.
Thin-film modules are less expensive, they absorb the light better and there is the possibility to mount these on moveable support materials. However, the efficiency of these modules is rather low; which means for the same productivity you need an area almost twice the size of the area needed with crystalline solar modules.
An important part for the productivity of a photovoltaic system is played by its adjustment and tilt angle: a PV system should face due South and (especially when using crystalline solar modules) one should also avoid shadow falling onto the system.
Basically one distinguishes between three different types of installation:
PV-systems with complete building integration
This is the most expensive type of system. On the other hand, however, it enjoys the highest feed-in tariff
Partial building integration (rooftop system)
The most common type of system, the solar modules are mounted onto the existing roofing
This includes all standalone systems, as well as systems on open areas (for example solar parks)