Solar cells are made of sliced silicon wafer that are refined and assembled with an electrical wires interconnection. The size of a wafer is about 100 centimeter square. If we take one wafer, expose it to bright sunlight, and connect it to an electrical meter, we would measure 0.6 Volts DC of electrical pressure.
A voltage higher than the battery rating is required to push electrons and charge the battery. For example, to charge a 12 Volts battery, at least 15 Volts is required, plus some additional voltage for electrical losses in the system. For this reason, solar cell manufacturers typically connect 36 cells in series to create an additive voltage (36cells in series x 0.6 Volts per cell = 21.6 Volts Open Circuit).
An interesting phenomenon of solar cells or other electrical generators is a reduction of voltage when the cell is under load, for example when charging a battery. In addition, heat also causes solar cells voltage to drop. A grouping of solar cells arranged and mounted in a frame is known as a solar module
When the voltage of a solar module is measured without a connected load, we call this the open circuit voltage. Manufacturers often refer to this as Voc. When the module is at its maximum-rated power output, the voltage is less than the open circuit rating. This is known as the voltage at maximum load In order to complete a electric circuit, we must have a source of voltage and current flow. A solar module will cause current to flow within the cells and out of the supply wires to the connected load.
Use caution when comparing module power ratings. Manufacturer power ratings are based on ideal sunshine conditions, which rarely occur in the real world. It is wise to derate module power ratings by 20-40% based on local atmospheric conditions.
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