Photovoltaic Module

What is a Photovoltaic Module?

A photovoltaic module is a collection of photovoltaic cells mounted together to collect sunlight for energy. Also, colloquially called a solar panel.

Key Takeaways:

  • A photovoltaic module is also known as a solar panel and consists of one or more photovoltaic cells that are collectively known as a module, or solar panel.
  • Photovoltaic modules are typically made of silicon semiconductors, glass, and aluminum.
  • Photovoltaic modules are designed for 25+ year lifespans in the elements, but can still become damaged.

Understanding Photovoltaic Modules

A photovoltaic module (also referred to as a solar panel) is a collection of one or more photovoltaic cells (also known as solar cells) that are joined together as a single power-producing unit in order to power an electrical appliance. A collection of photovoltaic modules is known as a photovoltaic array.

To illustrate:

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

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

Photovoltaic modules are typically constructed of a series of crystalline silicon wafers sandwiched between a front plate of glass to protect it from the elements and a rear conducting panel that collects the electricity produced, with a plastic polymer base-sheet that helps insulate the aluminum frame.

While modern PV modules are constructed to weather the 25-year outdoor lifespan that most are designed for, photovoltaic modules can still fail due to a number of reasons including water intruding into the module and causing damage, physical damage to the modules, or even potential induced degradation (PID).

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 Cell – A photovoltaic cell is a device that converts solar energy into direct current electricity for use in homes or businesses through the photovoltaic effect.