What Is a Solar Array?
A solar battery pack is a loosely defined term referring to a group of photovoltaic solar panels or batteries that convert sunlight into electrical energy and arrange and connect them in a unit. The term may also refer to a group of similar mirrors used to orient and focus sunlight onto such photovoltaic units. Solar panels can be relatively small, such as a set of panels on a home roof, or they can be very large, such as a panel that covers several acres and contains hundreds or even thousands of individual panels.
Strictly speaking, even individual solar panels are technically solar panels. A typical solar panel is connected by several photovoltaic cells, bundled or contained in one unit. However, the term “array” is not commonly used in this manner, and solar panels are often viewed as a group of solar panels that vary greatly in size and shape. A typical solar panel is made up of one type of solar panel, but this is not necessarily the case.
Photovoltaic cells are the basis for most solar arrays. These devices convert sunlight into electric current, and can generate substantial amounts of electricity in large enough numbers. In the late 20th and early 21st century, it became more common for energy and environmentally conscious homeowners to install residential solar arrays in an effort to mitigate their energy costs. A typical residential array is mounted on the house, facing due south when possible, and usually on the roof.
While most solar arrays are stationary, some arrays are designed to use very efficient electric motors to turn the individual panels or groups of panels to follow the sun. This maximizes both the exposure of the panels to direct sunlight and the electricity they can generate. The small amount of electricity used by the motors is more than offset by the increase in the output. In some areas, where land has little value, such as deserts or other areas that receive a high percentage of sunlight, very large solar arrays can cover many acres.
Many spacecraft use solar arrays for generating electricity as well. They are easily oriented towards the sun and are capable of providing a significant amount of power. Both on earth and in space, groups of mirrors, sometimes called solar arrays, direct sunlight for conversion to electricity by solar cells or other purposes.