Photovoltaic Array

What is a Photovoltaic Array?

A photovoltaic array is a collection of one or more solar panels that are connected together in order to collect a greater amount of solar energy.

Key Takeaways:

  • A photovoltaic array is a collection of solar panels that are interconnected as a single unie to produce power.
  • A photovoltaic array is made up of one or more photovoltaic modules, which are in turn composed of one or more photovoltaic cells.
  • Smaller photovoltaic arrays may comprise just a single photovoltaic module.

Understanding Photovoltaic Arrays

A photovoltaic array is a collection of one or more photovoltaic modules (also referred to as solar panels) that are interconnected to function as a single power-producing unit in order to power a larger application such as a home. This collection of modules are each themselves composed of a collection of smaller photovoltaic cells. 

To illustrate:

One or more photovoltaic cells → One or more photovoltaic modules → A photovoltaic array

In smaller systems an array may consist of just a single module.

In most instances, a single photovoltaic module is not enough for general home use so by connecting many individual modules in series (for a higher voltage requirement) or in parallel (for a higher current requirement) the array will produce the desired power output.

PV Array Common Terms

VOC = open-circuit voltage: – This is the maximum voltage that the array provides when the terminals are not connected to any load. This value depends upon the number of photovoltaic modules connected together in series.

ISC = short-circuit current – The maximum current provided by the photovoltaic modules when the output connectors are shorted together.

Pmax = maximum power point – This is the point where the power supplied by the array is at its maximum value. The maximum power point of a photovoltaic array is measured in Watts (W) or peak Watts (Wp).

FF = fill factor – The fill factor is the relationship between the maximum power that the array can provide under normal operating conditions and the product of the open-circuit voltage times the short-circuit current, ( Voc x Isc ). This fill factor value gives an idea of the efficiency of your system and the closer the fill factor is to 1 (unity), the more power the array can provide. Typical values are between 0.7 and 0.8.

% eff = percent efficiency – The efficiency of a photovoltaic array is the ratio between the maximum electrical power that the array can produce and the amount of solar radiation striking the array. The efficiency of a typical photovoltaic array is normally around 10-12%, depending on the type of photovoltaic cells being used.

Related Terms

Photovoltaic Module – A collection of photovoltaic cells mounted together to collect sunlight for 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.