Climate change and global warming concerns, coupled with high oil prices, peak oil, and increasing government support, are driving increasing renewable energy legislation, incentives and commercialization.[10] New government spending, regulation and policies helped the industry weather the global financial crisis better than many other sectors.[24] According to a 2011 projection by the International Energy Agency, solar power generators may produce most of the world's electricity within 50 years, reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases that harm the environment.[25]
The array of a photovoltaic power system, or PV system, produces direct current (DC) power which fluctuates with the sunlight's intensity. For practical use this usually requires conversion to certain desired voltages or alternating current (AC), through the use of inverters.[4] Multiple solar cells are connected inside modules. Modules are wired together to form arrays, then tied to an inverter, which produces power at the desired voltage, and for AC, the desired frequency/phase.[4]
Taken together, the generation and distribution of electric power in the United States is an astonishingly complex undertaking. Utilities may generate their own power or buy it from other utilities; that power travels over a grid of transformers and high- and low-voltage lines to your house. Ownership of utilities varies from nonprofits to cooperatives to for-profits. Federal regulators ultimately oversee the grid. Amazingly, when you flip a switch, electricity is there.
Photovoltaics were initially solely used as a source of electricity for small and medium-sized applications, from the calculator powered by a single solar cell to remote homes powered by an off-grid rooftop PV system. Commercial concentrated solar power plants were first developed in the 1980s. The 392 MW Ivanpah installation is the largest concentrating solar power plant in the world, located in the Mojave Desert of California.