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Solar photovoltaic (PV) energy is becoming an increasingly important part of the world's renewable energy. In order for effective energy extraction from a solar PV system, this paper investigates I-V and P-V characteristics of solar PV cells and modules. The paper focuses particularly on I-V and P-V characteristics of a solar PV system when PV cells operate under uneven shading and dissimilar conditions. The study considers the relationship between semiconductor properties of a solar PV system and the external electric circuit requirements. The paper also examined how different bypass diode arrangements could affect the maximum power extraction characteristics of a solar PV system. It is found in this paper that under uneven shading conditions, solar PV cells may perform very differently and a solar PV system may exhibit multiple peaks in its P-V characteristics, implying that enhanced PV system design approaches and MPPT strategies should be developed to improve efficiency of a solar PV system.