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About Photovoltaics

Photovoltaic (or PV) systems convert light energy into electricity.
Most commonly known as "solar cells," PV systems are already an important part of our lives. The simplest systems power many of the small calculators and wrist watches we use every day. More complicated systems provide electricity for pumping water, powering communications equipment, and even lighting our homes and running our appliances. In a surprising number of cases, PV power is the cheapest form of electricity for performing these tasks.


Montana Residential Solar Electric Demonstration Project
Download a brief summary of what you need to do to use solar power in Montana.  

Photovoltaics: Unlimited Electrical Energy from the Sun
Bulk electrical power generation using the available solar energy of a kilowatt per square meter will occur when photovoltaic cells decline in price below 10 cents per kilowatt-hour. The first practical solar cell was developed at Bell Laboratories [1] in 1954. With the advent of the space program, photovoltaic cells made from semiconductor-grade silicon quickly became the power source of choice for use on satellites. The system were very reliable, and cost was of little concern. In the early 1970s, the disruption of oil supplies to the industrialized world led to serious consideration of photovoltaics as a terrestrial power source. This application focused research attention on improving performance, lowering costs and increasing reliability. These three issues remain important today even though researchers have made extraordinary progress over the years. This article details that progress.

PV Now!
"Customer-Sited Photovoltaics: Focusing on Markets that Really Shine"
This study highlights the best U.S. markets for grid-connected PV systems. PV is cost-effective at today's prices of about $6 to $7 per watt, and cost-effective markets exist for customer-sited PV, or grid-connected PV applications at homes, small businesses, and large commercial sites. Montana, with residential electric rates of 6.3 cents/kWh and commercial rates of 5.2 cents/kWh, and with no incentives, is 46th in the nation in market ranking for PV.

PV Watts
PVWATTS calculates electrical energy produced by a grid-connected PV systems within the United States and its territories. Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory developed PVWATTS so that non-experts could quickly obtain performance estimates for grid-connected PV systems. You'll also find information on how photovoltaics work, PV manufacturers, consumer guides, and more.

Sandia National Laboratory Photovoltaic Systems Program
Works collaboratively with the U.S. photovoltaic industry, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, other government agencies, and international organizations to increase the world-wide use of photovoltaic power systems by reducing cost, improving reliability, increasing performance, removing barriers, and growing markets.
Sandia offers a host of publications explaining practical photovoltaic applications.

Tapping Into the Sun
Today, solar-generated electricity serves people living in the most isolated spots on earth and in the center of our biggest cities. First used in the space program, PV systems are now generating electricity to pump water, light up the night, activate switches, charge batteries, supply the electric utility grid, and more. Whether you are a homeowner, planner, architect, or just someone who pays electric utility bills, photovoltaics may already touch your life in some way. Visit the link above for more on how you can tap into the sun.

Water Pumping: The Solar Alternative 
This 38-page guide published by Sandia National Laboratories describes the characteristics of PV-powered pumping systems including their ease of procurement and installation, and small maintenance requirements, which account for their growing popularity.


Montana Solar Dealers
Ag Solar

Solar Books

Solar Water Heating
Solar Power Links
USB Solar Installations

Solar in Schools

Residental Solar Electric Demonstration Project

Fire Station Solar Electric Demonstration

Sun4Communities Solar Demonstration

Solar Meals for Seniors Demonstration Project

Other Solar Projects

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