How Solar Works
Sunlight can be directly converted into electricity using silicon cells. As sunlight shines upon the solar panels, the solar panel is able convert those photons (particles of sunlight) into electrons of direct current (“DC”) electricity. The electrons flow out of the solar panel and into an inverter and other electrical safety devices. The inverter converts that “DC” power (commonly used in batteries) into alternating current or “AC” power. AC power is the current that our grid and your appliances use when plugged into the wall outlet.
A net energy meter is able to roll backwards as you send electricity back onto the grid. Any solar energy that you do not use simultaneous with production will go back into the electrical grid through the net meter. At night or on cloudy days, when your system is not producing more than your building needs, you will consume electricity from the grid as normal. Your utility will bill you for the “net” consumption for any given billing period and provide you with a dollar credit for any excess during a given period.
Solar Photovoltaic (PV) System Components
A PV system include PV modules (groups of PV cells); an inverter to covert solar power from direct current (DC) to the alternating current (AC); wiring; and mounting hardware or a framework; a DC disconnect to disable the electrical system in the event of an emergency; a breaker for the system in your electrical breaker panel; and finally, a net meter provided by your electric utility.
Solar cells are small, square-shaped panel semiconductors made from silicon and other conductive materials, manufactured in thin film layers. When sunlight strikes a solar cell, chemical reactions release electrons, generating electric current. Solar cells are also called photovoltaic cells or “PV cells” and can be found on many small electronics such as calculators.
PV System Installation, Maintenance, and Longevity
While PV systems are sophisticated electric systems, they have no moving parts and can last more than 30 years while requiring little to no maintenance at all. The components are designed to meet strict dependability and durability standards to withstand the elements. The best way to ensure and extend the life and effectiveness of your PV system is by having it installed and maintained properly. Most PV system problems occur because of a poor system installation.
In regards to the installation, there are three main roof types: Pitched (asphalt shingles), Row Houses with a flat roof (or slight pitch), and is a larger flat roof associated with larger buildings.
With row houses, penetrations only occur in the brick parapet wall which divides your unit with your neighbor. Light weight aluminum beams expand from one side of the wall to the other to avoid any weight or penetrations directly on your roof.
With pitched roof tops, they must be asphalt shingles, Spanish tile and slate will not work. View a 60 second video on how that is installed here.
For larger flat rooftops, we use a penetration free ballasting system. An array of solar panels are all connected with each other and weighed down with additional blocks. Rubber under-laying coating prevents any corrosion and guarantees to not void any existing warranty you may have on your roof.
Incorporating PV Systems into Your Home and Business
PV systems today can be merged easily into both traditional and nontraditional homes, powering appliances and electric systems. PV cells can be installed on your roof or by using a ground mounted system. The most common practice is to mount modules onto a south-facing roof or wall. PV systems likewise can be blended into virtually every conceivable structure for commercial buildings.
Sunlight Requirements for PV Systems
A photovoltaic (PV) system needs unobstructed access to the sun’s rays for most or all of the day to be effective. Shading on the system can significantly reduce energy output. Climate is not a major concern because PV systems are relatively unaffected by air temperatures, and snow cover typically melts quickly because panels are positioned directly into the sunlight. Abundant year-round sunshine makes solar energy systems useful and effective nearly everywhere in the United States.