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Learn more about photovoltaic systems that convert light energy into electricity.

Department of Energy

Enough energy from the sun hits the earth every hour to power the planet for an entire year—and solar photovoltaic (PV) systems are a clean, cost-effective way to harness that power for homes and businesses. The literal translation of the word photovoltaic is light-electricity—and this is exactly what photovoltaic materials and devices do—they convert light energy into electrical energy.

PV systems generate power without pollution—and recent advancements have greatly improved their efficiency and electrical output. To build on this progress, Secretary Chu recently announced the “SunShot” initiative to reduce the cost of solar power by about 75 percent before the end of the decade – making it cost competitive with other forms of electricity.

This video shows the basics of how a PV panel converts light from the sun into usable power, whether on the electric grid or off—and without emissions or the use of fossil fuels.

For more information on solar technologies from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, visit the Solar Energy Technologies Program Web page.