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ERIC Number: EJ1024882
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Oct
Pages: 3
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 10
ISSN: ISSN-0031-921X
Circuits in the Sun: Solar Panel Physics
Gfroerer, Tim
Physics Teacher, v51 n7 p403-405 Oct 2013
Typical commercial solar panels consist of approximately 60 individual photovoltaic cells connected in series. Since the usual Kirchhoff rules apply, the current is uniform throughout the circuit, while the electric potential of the individual devices is cumulative. Hence, a solar panel is a good analog of a simple resistive series circuit, except that the devices generate (rather than burn!) electrical power. For example, in order to sustain the current flow, each device must generate the requisite current. As a result, the least efficient device limits the current throughout. Photovoltaic cells also have a more complicated current-voltage (I-V) characteristic, which determines the optimal load for power extraction. These considerations, among others, make the solar panel an excellent platform for exploring the physics of electric circuits.
American Association of Physics Teachers. One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740. Tel: 301-209-3300; Fax: 301-209-0845; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A