From Open Energy Information
- Photovoltaics (PV) is the conversion of light into electricity using semiconducting materials that exhibit the photovoltaic effect, a phenomenon studied in physics, photochemistry, and electrochemistry. A photovoltaic system employs solar modules, each comprising a number of solar cells, which generate electrical power. PV installations may be ground-mounted, rooftop mounted, wall mounted or floating. The mount may be fixed or use a solar tracker to follow the sun across the sky. Solar PV has specific advantages as an energy source: once installed, its operation generates no pollution and no greenhouse gas emissions, it shows simple scalability in respect of power needs and silicon has large availability in the Earth’s crust. Photovoltaic systems have long been used in specialized applications as stand-alone installations and grid-connected PV systems have been in use since the 1990s. Photovoltaic modules were first mass-produced in 2000, when German environmentalists and the Eurosolar organization got government funding for a ten thousand roof program. Advances in technology and increased manufacturing scale have in any case reduced the cost, increased the reliability, and increased the efficiency of photovoltaic installations. Net metering and financial incentives, such as preferential feed-in tariffs for solar-generated electricity, have supported solar PV installations in many countries. More than 100 countries now use solar PV. After hydro and wind powers, PV is the third renewable energy source in terms of global capacity. At the end of 2016, worldwide installed PV capacity increased to more than 300 gigawatts (GW), covering approximately two percent of global electricity demand. China, followed by Japan and the United States, is the fastest growing market, while Germany remains the world's largest producer, with solar PV providing seven percent of annual domestic electricity consumption. With current technology (as of 2013), photovoltaics recoups the energy needed to manufacture them in 1.5 years in Southern Europe and 2.5 years in Northern Europe.
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