Photovoltaics, do you know what this really means?

Imagine that your home can generate all the energy it consumes. And guess what?  in a clean way, with low environmental impact, by means of sunlight. This is already a reality for many residents of Germany, Japan, Italy, the United States and other countries. Why not make it a reality for Brazilians?

It was with this idea in mind that the Instituto Ideal launched the project América do Sol (“Sunny South America”), which aims to develop the production of solar electricity in Latin America (especially Brazil) by installing grid-connected photovoltaic systems on rooftops in residential roofs, public buildings, commercial buildings, shopping malls, hotels, airports, Brazilian stadiums, etc.

However, there is still a great deal of misinformation about this technology because it is still not very disseminated. One of the biggest mistakes people make is to confuse a solar module with a solar collector. While the module generates electricity, the collector heats water.

As solar energy in Brazil is predominantly used for water heating (and fortunately, it begins to appear on rooftops more often), it is very common for people to think that generating electricity from the sun is usual in our country, but this is idea is not true, because solar electricity is currently only used in specific projects and, in most cases, associated with Research and Development. This technology has recently started to be used for rural electrification in remote sites within the government program Light for All.

Electricity is generated from the sun through solar or photovoltaic modules. ‘Photovoltaic’ is a term that comes from the blend of two words: photo, which has its root in the Greek language and means “light” and voltaic, which comes from ‘volt’, which is the unit for measuring the electrical potential.

Unlike what many people think, the greatest potential of this technology lies in grid-connected systems, rather than stand-alone systems. Connecting a PV system to the power grid (most systems installed worldwide) reduces the cost of the batteries used to store the energy people want to consume when it is not sunny (at night, for example). When there is no sunlight, a building uses electricity that comes from the power grid. Another benefit is that, when more energy is generated than the building can consume, such amount of energy can be released into the grid, thus leveraging the full potential of electricity production.

These are just two examples of information that must be clarified. For this reason, Instituto Ideal and its partners realized that their first endeavor should have an informative nature: to disclose the myths and truths about PV technology, explain the differences between electricity generation and water heating, and show possible ways to develop this sector in Brazil.

Thus, a website www.americadosol.org was created to display elucidative information about solar energy. It explains the operation of a grid-connected system, different technologies available, advantages, the current status of the world market and the projects that are developed by Instituto Ideal and its partners in Brazil. In addition, the website provides a knowledge base in English about solar electricity, providing a glossary, FAQs, downloadable studies and relevant links.

More about Instituto Ideal and its partners

America do Sol is a project of Instituto Ideal  (www.institutoideal.org), an NGO located in Santa Catarina (southern Brazil) that promotes alternative energy in Latin America. The initiative has the support of the German Cooperation for Sustainable Development, through Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and the German Development Bank – KfW. Moreover, it has the technical support of the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC) through the staff of the Photovoltaic Group.