Solar photovoltaic (PV) companies manufactured a record 24,000 megawatts of PV cells worldwide in 2010, more than doubling their 2009 output. Annual PV production has grown nearly 100-fold since 2000, when just 277 megawatts of cells were made. Newly installed PV also set a record in 2010, as 16,600 megawatts were installed in more than 100 countries. This brought the total worldwide capacity of solar PV to nearly 40,000 megawatts — enough to power 14 million European homes.
Made of semiconductor materials, PV cells convert solar radiation directly into electricity. Rectangular panels consisting of numerous PV cells can be linked into arrays of various sizes and power output capabilities — from rooftop systems measured in kilowatts to ground-mounted arrays of hundreds or even thousands of megawatts. (One megawatt equals 1,000 kilowatts.)
There are two main types of PV — traditional crystalline silicon and newer thin-film PV. In 2010, crystalline silicon production was […]