Do you know how modularity can help you go solar today?

One of the key benefits of photovoltaic technology is that it is modular. The solar array you see on your neighbor’s rooftop is actually several solar panels connected together. And each of those solar panels is made up of many solar cells.

To see how modularity can help you go solar today, it will help to understand why modularity is important and learn about some of the key characteristics of solar cells, solar panels and solar arrays.

Modularity is the Key!

Modularity allows for the construction of solar arrays from much smaller solar cells so that enough solar electricity can be generated for any home. Whether you are looking at generating 500 W or 2.5 kW, solar modularity will enable you to build the system you need using standard solar panels.

The unique, modular relationship between solar cells, solar panels and solar arrays makes it possible to configure a system to meet most power and space requirements. Let’s take a look at each of these components…

Solar Cells

Solar cells are the basic building blocks of all photovoltaic systems. They are made out of semiconductor materials such as silicon or gallium arsenide. When they are exposed to light they generate electricity through a process known as the phototovoltaic effect.

An individual solar cell will only produce about 1 to 3 watts of power. To generate more power, solar cells are combined inside of a frame to form a solar panel. You will often hear solar panels referred to as solar modules. These terms are used interchangeably.

Solar Panels

Although the solar cell is the basic element of a PV system, the primary component you will work with is the solar panel. When you specify your system, you won’t be specifying solar cells, you’ll be specifying solar power panels.

Some of the criteria that you will need to consider when selecting a solar panel include:

• Cell type
• Rated power at Standard Test Conditions (STC)
• Module efficiency
• Rated power tolerance
• Power density
• Warranty

Since most solar panels are rated at 100 to 300 watts of power, you will need to combine several panels with each other in order to generate a useful amount of power for your home. When solar panels are combined in this way, they form a solar array.

Solar Arrays

Two factors that will have an impact on your solar array design are the power density and size of your solar panel. Combined, these factors will determine the overall size of your solar array.

Power density measures how much power your selected solar panel produces per square foot. For example, a panel with a power density of 12 watts per square foot will require at least 83 square feet of roof space to generate 1kW of power whereas a panel with a power density of 18 watts per square foot will only require 56 square feet of roof space to generate the same amount of power.

A second factor that determines your solar array size is the size of the solar panel you will use. For example, two 200 watt solar panels made by different manufacturers can have different dimensions. As a result, the overall size of the solar array will differ depending on which panel you use.

How Modularity Can Help You…

The most expensive components of a solar power system are the solar panels. If you aren’t able to finance the size of system you would like, look at the possibility of starting off with a smaller system. The modular structure of photovoltaic devices will allow you to gradually grow into your desired system by adding additional solar panels at a later date. Taking advantage of solar PV modularity can help you go solar today!


Michael Martinez is the owner of Solar Energy At Home, a website focused on providing homeowners with the information they need to harness the power of the Sun for their home.

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