Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic (PV) cells made of silicon. When the sun’s rays hit them, these cells convert sunlight to electricity. Individual cells are wired together to form a solar panel. Panels are typically three feet by five feet. They are coated in tempered glass, which allows them to withstand harsh weather.
The electricity produced by a single solar panel is not enough to power a home or business, so multiple solar panels are needed. The number of panels varies by installation, but every solar system (also called an “array”) will include a series of panels mounted and wired together. This array may be installed on a roof (“roof-mounted solar”) or on the ground-level (“ground-mounted solar”).
The electricity generated by solar panels takes the form of direct current (DC). However, most appliances and electricity-consuming objects (called “electric load”) require alternating current (AC). To convert the solar electricity from DC to AC, an inverter is needed. You will need to choose between two types of inverters: a central inverter and microinverters. While both perform the task of converting electricity from DC to AC, they differ in critical ways.
A central inverter receives all of the electrical output of your entire solar system and converts it from DC to AC at a single, central location. A single central inverter is required for a solar system. It is often mounted on the side of your home or building next to your electric meter. Central inverters are steadfast and affordable, but they are susceptible to variations in panel performance. If one panel is shaded and produces less electricity than the others, the total electrical output will drop.
If shading is of concern, microinverters or DC optimizers can help maximize production. Unlike central inverters, microinverters and DC optimizers individually mount to the backside of each individual solar panel. They capture the electricity that flows off of each panel. DC optimizers work with a central inverter that converts DC to AC. Microinverters convert DC immediately to AC right under the panel. With either DC optimizers or microinverters, if one panel is shaded, it will not affect the output of the whole array. By design, both DC optimizers and microinverters help maximize the conversion of electricity and are useful in situations with variable shading. What’s more, because they allow each panel to operate independently of one another, both make it easy to add more panels to a solar array in the future.
Once electricity is produced by the solar panels and converted from DC to AC by the inverter(s), it will flow through your electric meter and into your home or building. It will be used on site the moment it is created. Any excess will flow back out through your electric meter and onto the local grid.See How Solar Works
Think of your solar array as a 25-year investment. Solar panels will produce electricity for at least 25 years. Panels will continue to generate electricity after 25 years, but at a decreasing rate. While inverters will likely last for the duration of the PV system, you may need to replace central inverters after 15 years.
Solar panels can be installed either on the roof or in the ground. When selecting the location to install solar panels, several things must be taken into account. We will address some technical considerations and details that you should pay attention to before choosing where to install your solar panels.
The Sun follows a specific path throughout the year, and according to the location, there is a specific angle (azimuth) that benefits solar power production. For the US, your solar panels should face South.
If the roof where you have been thinking of installing the solar panels faces South, South-East or South West, then it’s a good spot for them. On the other hand, if the available space on the roof only faces North, then a better location will need to be found.
Inclination (or tilt angle) is also very important. Roof mounted systems have limited possibilities here, since the angle of the roof will also be the angle for the PV array.
The optimum tilt angle will vary according to the season, however, on a fixed PV system, we must choose a single angle that would maximize energy yields across the year. Choosing a tilt angle that is equal to the latitude of the location is a good approach for a solar design. Therefore, if your roof is not designed with an angle similar to the latitude of your business or household, you will have some annual energy losses associated with the tilt angle.
If a roof installation isn't the best senerio either by orientation, size or shading issues then a ground mounted system might be the best way to go. Ground mounted systems do not have that problem because they can be literally configured in any tilt position and be placed true south. Ask us about our adjustable ground racking system!
Solar is a simple, minimum-maintenance technology. Unlike other energy technologies, solar PV contains no moving parts. This means it’s not likely your equipment will fail. You should not have to replace your panels at all during their lifetime. Wiring is the part of solar PV that most commonly requires maintenance because squirrels and other animals may tamper with it. Depending on your inverter type, you may also need to have your inverter replaced 10 to 12 years after installation. Extended warranties can cover this equipment replacement cost. Ask us for for more information on your extended warranty options.
In most cases, solar panels do not need to be washed, as rain and snow naturally clean them. In times of the year with less rain and lots of dust etc in the air, occasional cleaning may improve performance. We do not recommend climbing up to your panels to wash them.
A hybrid system is when your solar panels remain connected to the grid’s power lines and have a backup battery system to store excess power. The sun’s energy absorbed by the solar panels goes through an inverter to create usable electricity. From there, electricity either goes to your home, to your battery, or to the grid.
The benefit of a hybrid solar system is that you will always have power in any situation. With a backup battery, the excess energy that your solar panels create (but your home does not use), will be stored in this battery. Then, when the sun is not shining, this battery will provide your power during the night, system blackouts or inclement weather.
With a hybrid solar system, if you were to use up all the power in your battery, you have the ability to draw power from the electrical grid. how a hybrid solar system works
A hybrid solar system works by sending solar power to your inverter, which then sends energy to power your home. Extra energy that is not used to power your home goes to your home battery for storage.
This battery can provide power to your home when your solar panels are not producing energy. After all of those steps, if there is still leftover energy, that energy is sent to the grid.
Absolutely! Many home and business owners chose to go solar today – leveraging the immediate cost competitiveness of solar to start saving money on their electric bills – and install batteries in the future, once hardware costs fall. There is nothing that prevents you from adding battery storage to an existing solar array. This arrangement is called a “storage retrofit.” There are a few important hardware considerations (including whether to AC- or DC-couple the system, and the most appropriate battery inverter for the desired coupling configuration) and financing considerations (federal tax credit eligibility) for storage retrofits.