Flat-Plate Photovoltaic Systems
The most common photovoltaic (PV) array design uses flat-plate PV modules or panels. These panels can be fixed in place or allowed to track the movement of the sun. They respond to sunlight that is direct or diffuse. Even in clear skies, the diffuse component of sunlight accounts for between 10% and 20% of the total solar radiation on a horizontal surface. On partly sunny days, up to 50% of that radiation is diffuse, and on cloudy days, 100% of the radiation is diffuse.
The simplest PV array consists of flat-plate PV panels in a fixed position. The advantages of fixed arrays are that they lack moving parts, there is virtually no need for extra equipment, and they are relatively lightweight. These features make them suitable for many locations, including most residential roofs. But because the panels are fixed in place, their orientation to the sun is usually at an angle that is less than optimal. Therefore, fixed arrays collect less energy per unit area of array than tracking arrays. However, this drawback must be balanced against the higher cost of the tracking system.
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