Photovoltaic technology in California's Central Coast Region

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Depiction of how photovoltaic cells can be arranged into modules, panels, and arrangements. Image from Florida Solar Energy Center [1]

This page discusses the photovoltaic technology used in California's Central Coast region. For information on existing and proposed solar farms in the Californian central coast, visit Solar Farms in the California Central Coast Region

Technology and design

Movement of electrons in a photovoltaic cell. Image from U.S. Energy Information Administration: [2]

Photovoltaic technology

Solar panels or arrays that converts solar energy directly into electricity implement photovoltaic (PV) technology.

Within each solar panel and array are small units of semiconductor material called PV cells. When sunlight strikes the surface of a PV cell, some photons are absorbed by the semiconductor material.[1] The photons transfer energy into the atoms of the semiconductor material and triggers the release of electrons.[2] These electrons move to the front surface of the PV cell and create an electrical imbalance, with the surface having a more negative charge than the bottom. The imbalance results in a voltage potential similar to the positive and negative ends of a battery.[3] Connecting electrical conductors to the positive and sides of the PV cell creates an electric current and generates electricity.[4]

Multiple PV cell circuits sealed in a protective laminate form PV modules. One ore more PV modules in ready-to-install, pre-wired units are called PV panels. PV arrays refers to the complete power-generating system consisting of any combination of PV modules and panels.[5]

All existing and proposed Solar Farms in the California Central Coast Region implement PV technology.

Array Design

Fixed arrays

Fixed arrays are the simplest and most affordable design.[6] These arrays are simply anchored on the ground or surface and remain stationary.

While more affordable, fixed arrays are subject to fluctuations in energy output throughout the day and year. Energy output is maximized when the sun's rays strike the arrays at a perpendicular angle. Since the angle between the arrays and sun changes daily and seasonally, the energy output of fixed arrays is frequently sub-optimal.[7]

Solar trackers

Solar trackers address the shortfalls of fixed arrays. These arrays have motors that allow the panels to follow the sun and increase energy output.

Two types of solar trackers exist: single axis and dual axis. Single axis trackers move in a single direction allowing the tracking of the sun throughout the day. Dual axis trackers add an additional level of moment that allow to follow the sun's position according to time of year.

While the added complexities allow for increased energy output, they are more costly to implement and upkeep.[8]


  1. U.S. Energy Information Administration
  2. Alternate Energy Tutorials
  3. U.S. Energy Information Administration
  4. NASA
  5. Florida Solar Energy Center
  6. Solar Panel Tilt
  7. Community energy development co-operative
  8. Community energy development co-operative



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