When energy from the sun is converted into usable energy, it is done through the science of the photovoltaic process. This process is what most people are referring to when they think of solar energy. Renewable energy sources are becoming more popular by the day as more buildings, both commercial and residential, are turning toward alternative energy. So what exactly are photovoltaics, and how does this science work?

The Process

In a photovoltaic system, solar panels are needed to collect photons from the sun. Each panel is composed of several solar cells. Typically, a coating is applied to the top of the panel, which helps to contain the light within the cells. Under the various solar cells is a silicon semiconductor. On top of the semiconductor is a positive conductor, and below the semiconductor is a negative conductor. Trapped within the semiconductor, photons start to release electrons. The electrons are pulled between the positive and negative conductors, and soon, an electric current is created. This current is then sent along wires and is harnessed as direct current (DC) electricity. From here, the DC electricity is converted to alternating current (AC) electricity, which is used in our commercial buildings.

What are the pros and cons of photovoltaics?

There are plenty of pros with a photovoltaic installation. During the summer months, these systems capture the most amount of converted energy. This is especially important because we run the air conditioner the most during the summer. These systems have very few moving parts so there is minimal maintenance required. Plus, photovoltaic technology is very versatile. The solar power is converted directly to AC power with no need for a large generator. The path to usable power is quick and short. There are however a few negatives with photovoltaics. These include:

●        Photovoltaic systems can only collect power during hours of sunlight

●        Most systems have a low capacity for harnessing sunlight

●        Energy savings can take longer to offset the price of the initial installation


There are a many different solar panel models available. Traditional solar panels continue to be the most popular on our commercial building projects. There is also the option for concentrating photovoltaic panels, but typically these are only used in areas with high sun exposure. After the panel is selected, the next step is to choose the right location. It is up to the professionals to determine the best location to maximize sun exposure.

The engineers at Gausman and Moore are passionate about renewable energy and are well versed in photovoltaic installations. We work together with the designers and builders of large projects to make sure that your photovoltaic system is energy efficient and maximizes the amount of captured solar energy. To learn more about how we can help engineer your photovoltaic installation, contact us today. You can also view our extensive portfolio to learn about our sustainable projects we have completed.