Solar energy is by far the most abundant source of energy available to us, with enough energy falling from the sky each day to power our country's electrical needs many times over. Why not take advantage of this incredible energy source by installing a solar energy system? There are two ways in which you can harvest the energy from the sun: Photovoltaic systems and Solar Thermal systems.
Photovoltaic systems or, PV systems, utilize the sun's visible light spectrum to create electricity. Photons from the sun's rays knock electrons off of molecules inside the cells. As the sun's intensity increases, the stream of electrons grows, creating direct current (DC) power. In a typical situation, that DC power would then be converted into alternating current (AC) power for utilization in a home or business.
Solar thermal systems utilize the infrared spectrum of the sun's rays to heat water or a heat transfer fluid. Solar thermal systems are generally utilized to heat domestic water supplies, ie: showering, laundry and dish-washing. They can also be used for space heating applications like radiant floor heating and forced air heating systems. There are many different types of solar hot water systems. If you would like to learn more about Solar Thermal Systems CLICK HERE to go to our solar thermal learning page.
How Solar Works
Every day, light hits your roof's solar panels with photons (particles of sunlight). The solar panel converts those photons 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 kind of electrical that your television, computer, and toasters use when plugged into the wall outlet.
A net energy meter keeps track of the all the power your solar system produces. Any solar energy that you do not use simultaneous with production will go back into the electrical grid through the 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. You can carry your bill credit forward for up to a year.
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 appliances such as calculators. A group or collection of cells are what makes-up a solar module.
Solar Photovoltaic (PV) System Components
PV system components include PV modules (groups of PV cells), which are commonly called PV panels; an inverter to covert solar power from direct current (DC) to the alternating current (AC) of the utility grid-connected system; wiring; and mounting hardware or a framework. The modules are grouped together; this is called an array. Depending on the best installation location the array can be mounted on the roof, and awing configuration, carport, or even ground mounted.
PV System Installation, Maintenance, and Longevity
You could install a photovoltaic (PV) or solar electric system yourself. But to avoid complications or injury, you will probably want to hire a reputable professional contractor with experience installing solar systems. While they are sophisticated electric systems, PV systems have few moving parts, so they require little maintenance. The basic PV module (an interconnected, enclosed panel of PV cells) has no moving parts and can last more than 30 years while requiring little maintenance. 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 poor or sloppy system installation..
Incorporating PV Systems into Your Home and Business
PV systems today can be blended easily into both traditional and nontraditional homes, powering appliances and electric systems. 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. You will find PV used outdoors for security lighting as well as in structures that serve as covers for parking lots and bus shelters.
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. Germany and Spain are the largest users of solar systems in the world. The Midwest gets OVER 1 hour more of sunshine on average then they do. Solar works in the Midwest just fine!
The Size of Your Solar PV System
The size of your solar system depends on several factors such as how much electricity or hot water or space heat you use, the size of your roof, how much you're willing to invest, and how much energy you want to generate. Contact us to determine what type of system fits your needs.