Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions2019-04-27T22:35:22+00:00
What is photovoltaics (solar electricity) or “PV”?2019-03-27T07:14:59+00:00

What do we mean by photovoltaics? The word itself helps to explain how photovoltaic (PV) or solar electric technologies work. First used in about 1890, the word has two parts: photo, a stem derived from the Greek phos, which means light, and volt, a measurement unit named for Alessandro Volta (1745-1827), a pioneer in the study of electricity. So, photovoltaics could literally be translated as light-electricity. And that’s just what photovoltaic materials and devices do; they convert light energy to electricity, as Edmond Becquerel and others discovered in the 18th Century.

How can we get electricity from the sun?2019-03-27T07:14:39+00:00

When certain semiconducting materials, such as certain kinds of silicon, are exposed to sunlight, they release small amounts of electricity. This process is known as the photoelectric effect. The photoelectric effect refers to the emission, or ejection, of electrons from the surface of a metal in response to light. It is the basic physical process in which a solar electric or photovoltaic (PV) cell converts sunlight to electricity.

Sunlight is made up of photons, or particles of solar energy. Photons contain various amounts of energy, corresponding to the different wavelengths of the solar spectrum. When photons strike a PV cell, they may be reflected or absorbed, or they may pass right through. Only the absorbed photons generate electricity. When this happens, the energy of the photon is transferred to an electron in an atom of the PV cell (which is actually a semiconductor).

With its newfound energy, the electron escapes from its normal position in an atom of the semiconductor material and becomes part of the current in an electrical circuit. By leaving its position, the electron causes a hole to form. Special electrical properties of the PV cell—a built-in electric field—provide the voltage needed to drive the current through an external load (such as a light bulb).

What are the components of a photovoltaic (PV) system?2019-03-27T07:14:23+00:00

A PV system is made up of different components. These include PV modules (groups of PV cells), which are commonly called PV panels; one or more batteries; a charge regulator or controller for a stand-alone system; an inverter for a utility-grid-connected system and when alternating current (ac) rather than direct current (dc) is required; wiring; and mounting hardware or a framework.

How long do photovoltaic (PV) systems last?2019-03-27T07:14:06+00:00

A PV system that is designed, installed, and maintained well will operate for more than 40 years. The basic PV module (interconnected, enclosed panel of PV cells) has no moving parts and can last more than 30 years. The best way to ensure and extend the life and effectiveness of your PV system is by having it installed and maintained properly. Experience has shown that most problems occur because of poor or sloppy system installation.

What’s the difference between PV and other solar energy technologies?2019-03-27T07:13:46+00:00

There are four main types of solar energy technologies:

Photovoltaic (PV) systems, which convert sunlight directly to electricity by means of PV cells made of semiconductor materials.

Concentrating solar power (CSP) systems, which concentrate the sun’s energy using reflective devices such as troughs or mirror panels to produce heat that is then used to generate electricity.

Solar water heating systems, which contain a solar collector that faces the sun and either heats water directly or heats a “working fluid” that, in turn, is used to heat water.

Transpired solar collectors, or “solar walls,” which use solar energy to preheat ventilation air for a building.

Can I use photovoltaics (PV) to power my home?2019-03-27T07:13:20+00:00

PV can be used to power your entire home’s electrical systems, including lights, cooling systems, and appliances. PV systems today can be blended easily into both traditional and nontraditional homes. The most common practice is to mount modules onto a south-facing roof or wall. For an additional aesthetic appeal, some modules resemble traditional roof shingles

Can I use photovoltaics (PV) to power my business?2019-03-27T07:12:56+00:00

PV systems can be blended into virtually every conceivable structure for commercial buildings. You will find PV being used outdoors for security lighting as well as in structures that serve as covers for parking lots and bus shelters, generating power at the same time.

How big a solar energy system do I need?2019-03-27T07:12:36+00:00

The size of solar system you need depends on several factors such as how much electricity or hot water or space heat you use, how, the size of your roof, and how much you’re willing to invest. Also, do you want the system to supply your complete energy usage or to supplant a portion of your higher cost energy usage? You can contact our solar consultant to determine what type of system would suit your needs.

What is net metering? Is net metering available where I live and work?2019-03-27T07:12:18+00:00

Net metering is a policy that allows homeowners to receive the full retail value for the electricity that their solar energy system produces. The term net metering refers to the method of accounting for the photovoltaic (PV) system’s electricity production. Net metering allows homeowners with PV systems to use any excess electricity they produce to offset their electric bill. As the homeowner’s PV system produces electricity, the kilowatts are first used for any electric appliances in the home. If the PV system produces more electricity than the homeowner needs, the extra kilowatts are fed into the utility grid.

What are the financial benefits of solar energy?2019-03-27T07:11:57+00:00

When you install a solar energy system on your property, you save money on your electricity bills and protect yourself against rising electricity rates in the future. How much you can save depends on the utility rates and solar policies in your area, but going solar is a smart investment regardless of where you live.

How does solar impact my property values?2019-03-27T07:11:39+00:00

Studies have shown that homes with solar energy systems sell for more than homes without them. However, your property value will only increase if you own, rather than lease, your solar panel system. In most parts of the country, going solar will actually increase your property value more than a kitchen renovation.

What solar energy rebates and incentives are available?2019-03-27T07:11:21+00:00

Solar rebates and incentives vary depending on where you live. The most significant is the 30 percent federal investment tax credit (ITC), which allows you to deduct 30 percent of the cost of your solar energy system from your taxes. Some states offer additional tax credits, and certain municipalities and utilities also offer cash rebates or other incentives.

What are my solar financing options?2019-03-27T07:11:06+00:00

There are three solar financing options: you can purchase your system in cash, take out a solar loan to buy your system, or sign a solar lease/power purchase agreement (PPA).Solaryna’s Instant Estimate Tool can help you assess the costs and 20-year savings of each solar financing option; its calculations are based on your roof plus real quote data from your area.

Should I buy or lease my solar panel system?2019-03-27T07:10:46+00:00

The decision to buy or lease your solar energy system depends on your reasons for going solar. If you are interested in maximizing the financial returns of your solar energy system, buying the system is probably a better decision for you. However, if you prioritize an easy, maintenance-free way to reduce your energy bills and help the environment, you should consider a solar lease.

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