Solar PV System Overview
Solar photovoltaic (“PV”) systems can be classified into four segments: utility-scale, commercial, residential and off-grid. Currently, Silver Ridge Power operates utility-scale plants that provide solar power directly into the electricity grid. Commercial and residential systems are usually located on rooftops and, while connected with the electricity grid, principally provide electricity directly to either the commercial or residential customers who own them. Off-grid systems are typically small installations and are located in remote areas that lack connectivity to the electricity grid. Utility-scale systems can vary in size from 1 megawatt to much larger systems such as Silver Ridge Power’s 266 megawatt Mount Signal Solar project. According to the International Energy Agency, utility-scale installations are expected to experience the highest growth among the four segments, increasing from 18.5% of solar PV plants in 2010 to 23.3% in 2020.
How a Solar PV System Works
Sunlight is converted into electricity when it strikes a solar PV module. When light strikes the module, a certain portion of the light and corresponding energy is absorbed by the module. Fields present in the cells of the module force the electrons to flow in a certain direction, creating an electrical current. By placing a conductor on the top and bottom of the solar PV cell, the current is captured. The electricity produced by the cells is direct current (“DC”). The electricity from each of the panels is collected in combiner boxes and flows through to the inverter. Inverters are a critical component of solar power generation. Inverters convert the DC power generated by a solar PV module to alternating current (“AC”) power. This conversion makes the solar PV plant compatible with the electricity grid. Once converted to alternating current, the electricity flows through a transformer or series of transformers in order to be raised to an electrical voltage that is compatible with the electrical grid. Electricity is then delivered to the grid and transported to the end consumer. This process is illustrated in Exhibit 1 below.
Exhibit 1: Solar PV Electricity Generation