Classification of Solar Photovoltaic Systems

CLASSIFICATION OF SOLAR PHOTOVOLTAIC SYSTEMS


Photovoltaic systems are generally categorized into three distinct market segments: residential roof-top, commercial roof-top, and ground-mount utility-scale systems. Their capacities range from a few kilowatts to hundreds of megawats. A typical residential system is around 10 kilowatts and mounted on a sloped roof, while commercial systems may reach a megawatt-scale and are generally installed on low-slope or even flat roofs. Although roof-top mounted systems are small and display a higher cost per watt than large utility-scale installations, they account for the largest share in the market. There is, however, a growing trend towards bigger utility-scale power plants, especially in the “sunbelt” region of the planet.

ROOF-TOP SYSTEMS

A small PV system is capable of providing enough AC electricity to power a single home, or even an isolated device in the form of AC or DC electric. For example, military and civilian Earth observation satellites, street lights, construction and traffic signs, electric cars, solar-powered tents, and electric aircraft may contain integrated photovoltaic systems to provide a primary or auxiliary power source in the form of AC or DC power, depending on the design and power demands. In 2013, roof-top systems accounted for 60percent of worldwide installations.

BUILDING-INTEGRATED  SYSTEMS

In urban and suburban areas, photovoltaic arrays are commonly used on rooftops to supplement power use; often the building will have a connection to the power grid, in which case the energy produced by the PV array can be sold back to the utility in some sort of net metering agreement. Some utilities, such as Solvay Electric in Solvay, NY, use the rooftops of commercial customers and telephone poles to support their use of PV panels. Solar trees are arrays that, as the name implies, mimic the look of trees, provide shade, and at night can function as street lights.

UTILITY-SCALE SYSTEMS

Large utility-scale solar parks or farmss are power stations and capable of providing an energy supply to large numbers of consumers. Generated electricity is fed into the transmission grid powered by central generation plants (grid-connected or grid-tied plant), or combined with one, or many, domestic electricity generators to feed into a small electrical grid (hybrid plant). In rare cases generated electricity is stored or used directly by island/standalone plant. PV systems are generally designed in order to ensure the highest energy yield for a given investment. Some large photovoltaic power stations like Waldpolenz Solar Park and Topaz Solar Farm cover tens or hundreds of hectares and have power outputs up to hundreds of megawatts.

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