How does solar work?

While solar is comprised of a diverse suite of technologies, there are three main types: photovoltaics (PV), solar heating & cooling (SHC), and concentrating solar power (CSP). Homeowners and businesses interested in going solar are primarily interested in the first two technologies, while utilities and large-scale energy project developers primarily utilize the latter.

What are the components of a photovoltaic (PV) system?

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?

A PV system that is designed, installed, and maintained well will operate for more than 20 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 happens to solar panels when it’s cloudy or raining?

Photovoltaic panels can use direct or indirect sunlight to generate power, though they are most effective in direct sunlight. Solar panels will still work even when the light is reflected or partially blocked by clouds. Rain actually helps to keep your panels operating efficiently by washing away any dust or dirt.

What’s a solar lease or solar power-purchase agreement?

In a solar lease or solar power-purchase agreement (also known as a "PPA"), a customer pays for the solar power system over a period of years, rather than in an up-front payment. Often customers can purchase solar for little or no money down, and often realize energy savings immediately. In a power-purchase agreement, a customer agrees to purchase all the energy from a solar system over a fixed period of time.

Can a solar water heater replace an electric or gas water heater?

Not completely. Conventional electric or gas water heating systems are still necessary as a supplement to the solar water heating system, largely because the sun might not shine in a particular area for several days at a time. However, because solar water heaters are designed provide hot water directly to the tank of a gas or electric water heater, they reduce the need for the water heater to run on conventional fuels. And this in turn reduces your gas or electric bill. Depending on where you live, solar water heaters can provide up to 80% of your home's annual water-heating needs.

Roof-mounted or ground-mounted?

It depends. Roof-mounted tends to be less expensive as they require no support structures and are most often not visible to passersby. On the other hand, ground-mounted systems can usually be oriented and tilted to optimize production. Through understanding your business and your needs, Sunlight Electric will present a solution that optimizes for your business and your needs.

What solar acronyms and organization definitions are necessary to know?

BIPV: Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) refers to photovoltaic systems integrated with an object's building phase. It means that they are built/constructed along with an object and are planned together with the object.

DG: Distributed generation, also called on-site generation, dispersed generation, embedded generation, decentralized generation, decentralized energy or distributed energy, generates electricity from many small energy sources.

kW/kWh: The kilowatt (kW) is equal to one thousand watts. The kilowatt hour (kWh) is a unit of energy equal to 1000 watt hours.

MW/MWh: The megawatt is equal to one million watts. A megawatt hour is the amount of power used if 1,000,000 watts are used for 1 hour, or 1 watt is used for 1,000,000 hours.

O&M: Operations & Maintenance (O&M) are costs that relate to the normal operating, maintenance and administrative activities of a business.

PPA: A Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) refers to a contract entered into by an independent power producer and an electric utility. The power purchase agreement specifies the terms and conditions under which electric power will be generated and purchased. Power purchase agreements require the independent power producer to supply power at a specified price for the life of the agreement.

RFP: A request for proposal (RFP) is an invitation for suppliers, often through a bidding process, to submit a proposal on a specific commodity or service.