Photovoltaics is a method of generating electrical power
Electricity generation
Electricity generation is the process of generating electric energy from other forms of energy.The fundamental principles of electricity generation were discovered during the 1820s and early 1830s by the British scientist Michael Faraday...

 by converting solar radiation into direct current
Direct current
Direct current is the unidirectional flow of electric charge. Direct current is produced by such sources as batteries, thermocouples, solar cells, and commutator-type electric machines of the dynamo type. Direct current may flow in a conductor such as a wire, but can also flow through...

Electricity is a general term encompassing a variety of phenomena resulting from the presence and flow of electric charge. These include many easily recognizable phenomena, such as lightning, static electricity, and the flow of electrical current in an electrical wire...

 using semiconductor
A semiconductor is a material with electrical conductivity due to electron flow intermediate in magnitude between that of a conductor and an insulator. This means a conductivity roughly in the range of 103 to 10−8 siemens per centimeter...

s that exhibit the photovoltaic effect
Photovoltaic effect
The photovoltaic effect is the creation of voltage or electric current in a material upon exposure to light. Though the photovoltaic effect is directly related to the photoelectric effect, they are different processes. In the photoelectric effect, electrons are ejected from a material's surface...

. Photovoltaic power generation employs solar panels composed of a number of solar cell
Solar cell
A solar cell is a solid state electrical device that converts the energy of light directly into electricity by the photovoltaic effect....

s containing a photovoltaic material. Materials presently used for photovoltaics include monocrystalline silicon
Monocrystalline silicon
Monocrystalline silicon or single-crystal Si, or mono-Si is the base material of the electronic industry. It consists of silicon in which the crystal lattice of the entire solid is continuous, unbroken to its edges. It can be prepared intrinsic, i.e...

, polycrystalline silicon
Polycrystalline silicon
Polycrystalline silicon, also called polysilicon, is a material consisting of small silicon crystals. It differs from single-crystal silicon, used for electronics and solar cells, and from amorphous silicon, used for thin film devices and solar cells....

, amorphous silicon
Amorphous silicon
Amorphous silicon is the non-crystalline allotropic form of silicon. It can be deposited in thin films at low temperatures onto a variety of substrates, offering some unique capabilities for a variety of electronics.-Description:...

, cadmium telluride
Cadmium telluride
Cadmium telluride is a crystalline compound formed from cadmium and tellurium. It is used as an infrared optical window and a solar cell material. It is usually sandwiched with cadmium sulfide to form a p-n junction photovoltaic solar cell...

, and copper indium gallium selenide
Copper indium gallium selenide
Copper indium gallium selenide is a I-III-VI2 semiconductor material composed of copper, indium, gallium, and selenium. The material is a solid solution of copper indium selenide and copper gallium selenide...

/sulfide. Due to the growing demand for renewable energy
Renewable energy
Renewable energy is energy which comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are renewable . About 16% of global final energy consumption comes from renewables, with 10% coming from traditional biomass, which is mainly used for heating, and 3.4% from...

 sources, the manufacturing of solar cells and photovoltaic arrays
Photovoltaic system
A photovoltaic system is a system which uses one or more solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity. It consists of multiple components, including the photovoltaic modules, mechanical and electrical connections and mountings and means of regulating and/or modifying the electrical...

 has advanced considerably in recent years .

Solar photovoltaics is growing rapidly, albeit from a small base, to a total global capacity of 40 GW (40,000 MW) at the end of 2010.