Solar F.A.Q.

1 Solar Energy Systems (thermal or solar electric) are too expensive.  System Installations are more affordable than they have ever been in 40 years.  Photovoltaic (solar electric) modules cost per watt, installed,  started at $32 a watt, now at an all time low of under $4.  Solar Incentives cover a minimum of 30% all the way up to 85% of the costs of a system, relative to fossil fuels.

2 Typical home owner won't live in their home long enough to make their solar investment back. A solar system actually increases the value of the home. For every $1,000 that has been saved in annual electric costs, your home's value rises $15,000. (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), not including the benefit of lower utility cost.

3 Solar systems are ugly, large and bulky. Solar panels can be used as building materials. Now, modules have become virtually seamless with solar shingles. Solar cells can be combined with slate, metal, Jiber-cement, and asphalt roofing. They can be used as skylights and windows or other architectural components.

4 Solar panels require constant maintenance. Typically, the solar panels rarely require maintenance or cleaning. The rest of the system components, require no more then any other electrical equipment.

5 Solar panels do not work in cold, cloudy places/states. Germany, who ranks low in sunny days similar to Washington State, is the solar energy capital of the world. In fact, when the solar panels are cold, they are able to better conduct electricity. If the sun is shining, energy is produced.

6 Solar modules require more energy to manufacturer then they will ever generate in their lifetime. According to a U.S. Department of Energy study that analyzes several different module technologies, solar modules will generate more energy in their lifetime then was required to produce them. At modern photovoltaic module efficiencies, energy production payback is generally with in 4 - 6 years, based on local utility rates.

7 The solar panels cannot withstand harsh climates (snow, hail, winds, sleet,
disasters). Solar Panels built to code can withstand most climates and applications. The color of solar panels is dark which aides in melting snow. They can withstand the forces of a hurricane when made and installed to latest codes.

8 Solar systems are unreliable and inconsistent. On the contrary, solar electric systems can be more reliable than utility power companies. Typical solar modules warranty lasts 25 years or more. They have no moving parts and off-grid systems are not subject to power outages, as energy storage provides continuous operation. In fact, solar technologies are used to power many vital systems: aircraft warning lights, railroad crossing signals, navigational buoys, etc

9 I cannot use solar energy because I don't have enough sunlight and no Southern roof exposure. Most of America is bathed with sunlight. Cloudy areas still generate energy, but may require more solar, like the Pacific Northwest. East/West roof exposure is also effective based on application, as well as the use of ground mounted systems, trackers, or concentrators.

10 Solar energy is inefficient and does not produce enough energy. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, photovoltaic module efficiency has more than quadrupled since the 1970's. With an average between 14-20%. It sits in the same efficiency range as the gas in your car.

How solar energy works

1. Solar panel systems are a great way for you to save money, no matter what your budget is. If you can afford to pay your electricity bill every month, you can afford to install a solar panel system. With a $0-down solar loan, solar lease or PPA, you can finance your system and see immediate savings.

2. Installing a solar panel system is a great investment. Investing in a solar panel system can deliver better returns than stocks and bonds – and now is the right time to make that investment. While solar photovoltaic technology is improving incrementally each year, financial incentives and rebates will decrease as solar becomes more popular.

3. Solar photovoltaic systems have been around for a long time. Solar photovoltaic systems are a well-proven technology first invented in 1954 by scientists at Bell Labs. Today, solar panels are installed on over one million homes in the U.S.

4. Solar panel systems are highly durable. Solar photovoltaic panels are made of tempered glass and can withstand hail, snow, rain, and high winds. They can even extend the life of your roof by protecting it from daily wear and tear.

5. Solar power systems can produce electricity for 25 or more years. Most solar panel manufacturers offer a 25-year power production warrantyguaranteeing that their solar panels will continue to generate electricity at a certain capacity for the warranty’s duration.

6. Solar power systems are practically maintenance-free. Solar panel systems are incredibly durable. Except in extreme circumstances, they don't need to be washed or cleaned.

7. Solar panels can be installed almost anywhere in the United States. Most locations in the United States get enough sunlight to produce sufficient electricity from solar panels. The most important factors to consider when you evaluate your solar panel options are the rates you pay for electricity and the rebates and incentives available to you.

8. Solar energy systems are tied to the electric grid and do not require batteries to store power. When you install a solar energy system on your property, you remain connected to the electricity grid. At times when your system produces more electricity than you use, you receive credit for the electricity you send to the grid; if you need more electricity than your solar energy system is producing, you can draw it from the grid.

9. Solar power systems can eliminate most of your electricity bill. With the right planning, your solar panels can generate enough electricity to meet your needs over a 12-month period. As long as you have enough roof space to install the right size solar panel system, the power that your panels will produce will effectively eliminate most of your electricity bill.

10. Solar photovoltaic panels can be installed on the roof of your home or commercial property, on the ground or on a solar canopy. Solar panels can be installed practically anywhere that receives direct sunshine for most of the day and is not shaded by trees or buildings. Panels that face south will produce the most electricity, but your panels can also face east or west.
In 1954, scientists at Bell Telephone discovered that silicon, an element found in sand, created an electric charge when it was exposed to sunlight. This discovery led to the development of solar cells that captured the sun’s energy and turned it into electricity. Since then, the technology has evolved, and solar power systems now provide incredibly attractive financial benefits for homeowners, businesses and non-profits across the United States. Thanks to solar panels, we have access to an inexhaustible source of power – the sun. Throughout the day, the cells on your solar panels absorb the energy from sunlight. Circuits within the cells collect that energy and turn it into direct current (DC) electricity. The DC electricity is passed through a device called an inverter to convert it to the alternating current (AC) electricity used by most homes and businesses. You can use that electricity in your home, store it with a solar battery, or send it back to the grid.


Solar PV systems have four main components: 1. Solar photovoltaic panels ("solar panels") 2. Inverters 3. Racking and mounting systems 4. Performance monitoring systems

Solar panels collect and convert the sun’s energy into electricity. They are a key component of a solar panel system. Most commonly available panels today are either poly-crystalline or mono-crystalline solar panels.

The key differences between poly- and mono-crystalline panels are in efficiency and cost. Typically, mono-crystalline panels are more efficient (and thus more expensive) than poly-crystalline panels.

 

The cells in your solar panels collect the sun’s energy and turn it into direct current (DC) electricity. Most homes and businesses, however, use alternating current (AC). Inverters change the DC electricity from your panels into usable AC electricity. There are three basic approaches to solar inverters.

String (or centralized) inverter: A single inverter is used to connect your entire array of solar panels to your electrical panel. String inverters are the least expensive inverter option, and cost less than micro-inverters. However, if one of the panels stops producing electricity, even due to temporary shading, it can bring down the performance of the whole system.

Micro-inverters: If you choose micro-inverters, one will be installed at each solar panel, which allows each panel to maximize production. If some of your panels are shaded at different times of day or if they aren’t all installed facing the same direction, micro-inverters will minimize performance issues. The cost of micro-inverters tends to be higher than the cost of string inverters.

Power optimizers: Systems that use power optimizers are a hybrid of micro-inverter and string inverter systems. Like micro-inverters, power optimizers are installed at each panel. However, instead of converting the DC electricity from the solar panels into AC electricity, the optimizers “condition” the DC electricity before sending it to a centralized inverter. Like micro-inverters, they perform well when one or more panels are shaded or if panels are installed facing different directions. Power optimizer systems tend to cost more than string inverter systems, but less than micro-inverter systems.

Racking and mounting systems are used to affix your solar panels either to your roof or to the ground. They also allow you to position your panels at an angle that is best for capturing the sun’s rays.

To perform at their best, solar panels should face south and be installed at an angle between 30 and 45 degrees (depending on how far you are from the equator). Panels facing east or west and at a pitch angle of five degrees or more will still work well, but will produce 10 to 20 percent less electricity than those installed under ideal conditions.

There are two types of mounts: fixed mounts, in which the panels remain stationary, and track mounts, which allow panels to “follow” the sun as it moves across the sky during the day (single-axis track mounts) and during the changing seasons (dual-axis track mounts). Track mounts are only suitable for panels installed on the ground.

The difference between Fixed vs. Track mount systems

Fixed mounts are less expensive and the only option if you are installing your panels on your roof. Track mounts are more costly, but they allow you to increase your panels’ electricity production by 30 percent or more.

Because of their additional cost and increased maintenance, track mounts are best suited to situations where you have limited space and want to maximize the electricity production from a limited number of solar panels.

 Performance monitoring systems

Performance monitoring systems provide you with detailed information about the performance of your solar panel system. With a monitoring system, you can measure and track the amount of electricity your system produces on an hourly basis.

While some solar installers charge extra for installing a monitoring system, it can provide significant value over the lifetime of your solar panels. Monitoring systems help you identify any performance issues to ensure that you maximize the electricity production (and therefore the financial returns) of your solar panel system.

There are (2) Types:

On-site monitoring: The monitoring device is physically located on your property and records the amount of electricity produced.

Remote monitoring: Your solar PV system transmits its performance data to a monitoring service that you can access online or with a mobile device.