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Stylized Text: How a PV System Works.

Simply put, PV systems are like any other electrical power generating systems, just the equipment used is different than that used for conventional electromechanical generating systems. However, the principles of operation and interfacing with other electrical systems remain the same, and are guided by a well-established body of electrical codes and standards.

Although a PV array produces power when exposed to sunlight, a number of other components are required to properly conduct, control, convert, distribute, and store the energy produced by the array.

Depending on the functional and operational requirements of the system, the specific components required may include major components such as a DC-AC power inverter, battery bank, system and battery controller, auxiliary energy sources and sometimes the specified electrical load (appliances). In addition, an assortment of balance of system (BOS) hardware, including wiring, overcurrent, surge protection and disconnect devices, and other power processing equipment. Figure 3 show a basic diagram of a photovoltaic system and the relationship of individual components.

A diagram of how the components of a PV system interact with each other.

Figure 1. Major photovoltaic system components.

Why Are Batteries Used in Some PV Systems?

Batteries are often used in PV systems for the purpose of storing energy produced by the PV array during the day, and to supply it to electrical loads as needed (during the night and periods of cloudy weather). Other reasons batteries are used in PV systems are to operate the PV array near its maximum power point, to power electrical loads at stable voltages, and to supply surge currents to electrical loads and inverters. In most cases, a battery charge controller is used in these systems to protect the battery from overcharge and overdischarge.