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    Photovoltaics: Using semiconductor materials to convert sunlight into electricity


    Key Facts:

    • Photovoltaic (PV) systems consist of panels coated with a thin layer of semiconducting material. The sunlight knocks electrons loose from the atoms of the semiconducting material, and as the electrons flow through the material, they produce electricity.
    • Almost every region in the United States has sufficient solar resources for PV systems. On partly cloudy days, PV systems produce up to 80 percent of their potential electrical capacity, and on very overcast days, they can still produce about 25 percent.
    • A 90-mile square PV generating station in an average solar location in the United States could produce enough electricity to meet the entire country’s peak demand, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
    • Current worldwide installed PV capacity is more than 2,000 megawatts (MW). The world PV market is growing at approximately 25 percent annually.

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