Photovoltaic panels, usually referred to as solar panels, capture the sun's light energy and convert it to electricity, for any electrical application. Each PV panel is rated for a specific power output, measured in watts, as well as current and voltage. PV systems must be sized carefully to suit to the demands of the electrical application.
Photovoltaic systems operate pollution free, and require little or no maintenance throughout their lifespan. The first PV panels ever mass produced in the 1970's are still in operation today, with almost no downtime. Expect the price to reflect quality: most PV panels come with a 20-year warranty. However, there are economic incentives offered in North Carolina to make PV purchasing more affordable.
There are two different types of photovoltaic systems used in American homes today: Off-grid systems and Grid-Intertied systems. Essentially, off-grid systems require more components-a well-sized battery bank, a charge controller, and an inverter. Grid-Intertied systems enjoy the luxury of no batteries, however if you choose this, don't expect to have power when the grid goes down. Grid-Intertied systems will "use the grid" as power storage.