Renewable energy specialist K2Solar explains the functions of the major components of a solar photovoltaic system.

Photovoltaic Array

Solar photovoltaic systems feature solar cells that are used to convert sunlight into electricity. The PV cell consists of one or two layers of a semi-conducting material such as silicon. When sunlight falls on the cell, an electric field is created across the layers, causing electricity to flow. The greater the light intensity on the solar cell, the higher the flow of electricity.

DC Combiner Boxes

Larger PV systems use combiner boxes to consolidate the wiring from multiple solar PV module strings. The combiner boxes not only help reduce the number of terminations but also properly balance the strings before they connect into the inverter.

DC Disconnect Switch

Serving primarily as a safety device, the disconnect switch enables the inverter assembly to be electrically isolated during servicing.

DC/AC Inverter Assembly

The inverter converts the direct current (DC) produced by the solar PV modules into alternating current (AC) so that it can be connected into the customer’s main AC power service panel. The inverter assembly may also be used as a voltage transformer depending on the system design.

AC Disconnect Switch

Designed as a safety disconnect on the AC power side of the inverter to allow for electrical isolation, this switch isolates the solar system from the utility grid and the customer’s electrical system.

Performance Monitoring System (PMS)

The performance monitoring system continuously monitors the solar PV system for faults and measures the amount of renewable energy being generated by the system.

Image: How a typical PV system works