Flat-Plate Photovoltaics

What are flat-plate photovoltaics?

Flat-plate photovoltaics are a type of photovoltaic array that consists of flat solar panels as opposed to concentrating modules. Most solar panels in residential use are flat-plate photovoltaics made of a rigid back, photovoltaic cells in a protective medium, and a glass or plastic surface layer for protection.

Key Takeaways:

  • Flat-plate photovoltaics are the most common type of solar array
  • They are typically made of a rigid backing, the photovoltaic cells, and a clear protective layer
  • They are more versatile than other types of solar arrays

Understanding flat-plate photovoltaics

A flat-plate photovoltaic array is simple a solar panel that is flat in design. Usually consisting of a rigid backing made of metal, the photovoltaic cells in a protective medium, and a transparent layer made of plastic or glass, this is the primary type of solar panel that most people think of when picturing a solar panel in their mind.

Flat-plate photovoltaics are the most common for residential use because of their flat design which makes for easy installation and relatively inexpensive cost to manufacture. That said, without the addition of a tracking module that angles the panels throughout the day to follow the sun, they often can lose a significant amount of their efficiency.

Flat-plate photovoltaics are able to harness both direct and diffuse light, making them more versatile than some of the alternatives. Even in clear conditions, as much as 20% of sunlight might be diffuse – or as much as 100% on overcast days. This can add up to a huge boost in efficiency over models that are not able to handle diffuse light.

Related Terms

Solar Panel – The colloquial term for a photovoltaic module that uses sunlight to harness solar energy.

Photovoltaic Panel – A panel of semiconducting material that converts sunlight into electrical energy through the photovoltaic effect.

Photovoltaic – the generation of electrical energy through exposure to the sun which excites an electron to a higher-energy state.