The Photovoltaic technology can be used in several types of applications:
Grid-connected domestic systems
This is the most popular type of solar PV system for homes and businesses in developed areas. Connection to the local electricity network allows any excess power produced to feed the electricity grid and to sell it to the utility. Electricity is then imported from the network when there is no sun. An inverter is used to convert the direct current power produced by the system to alternative power for running normal electrical equipments.
Grid-Connected power plants
These systems, also grid-connected, produce a large quantity of photovoltaic electricity in a single point. The size of these plants range from several hundred kilowatts to several megawatts. Some of these applications are located on large industrial buildings such as airport terminals or railways stations. This type of large application makes use of already available space and compensates a part of the electricity produced by these energy-intensive consumers.
Off-grid systems for rural electrification
Where no mains electricity is available, the system is connected to a battery via a charge controller. An inverter can be used to provide AC power, enabling the use of normal electrical appliances. Typical off-grid applications are used to bring access to electricity to remote areas (mountain huts, developing countries). Rural electrification means either small solar home system covering basic electricity needs in a single household, or larger solar mini-grids, which provide enough power for several homes. More information is available on www.ruralelec.org.
Off-grid industrial applications
Uses for solar electricity for remote applications are very frequent in the telecommunications field, especially to link remote rural areas to the rest of the country. Repeater stations for mobile telephones powered by PV or hybrid systems also have a large potential. Other applications include traffic signals, marine navigation aids, security phones, remote lighting, highway signs and waste water treatment plants. These applications are cost competitive today as they enable to bring power in areas far away from electric mains, avoiding the high cost of installing cabled networks
Photovoltaic cells are used in many daily electrical appliances, including watches, calculators, toys, battery chargers, professional sun roofs for automobiles. Other applications include power for services such as water sprinklers, road signs, lighting and phone boxes.