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About Solar

The sun's energy is captured and turned into usable electricity for everyday consumption in a solar cell – the heart of a solar electric system.

The word Photovoltaic (PV) is composed of two terms: Photo - Photon which means "light" and Voltaic from "Volt" which is the unit used to measure electric potential at a given point.
The most common semi conductor material used in photovoltaic cells is silicon, an element most commonly found in sand. There is no limitation to its availability as a raw material; silicon is the second most abundant material in the earth’s mass.

The performance of a solar cell is measured in terms of its efficiency at turning sunlight into electricity. A typical commercial solar cell has an efficiency of 15% about one-sixth of the sunlight striking the cell generates electricity.
The amount of solar power reaching the Earth’s surface varies significantly. This is due to the Earth’s tilt, rotation, atmosphere, and various climatic conditions. The estimate of peak solar energy hitting the Earth’s surface is known as Peak Sun and has been given the value of 1000 W/m2.

Inverters

When sunlight strikes a photovoltaic cell, direct current [DC] is generated. By putting an electric load across the cell, this current can be utilized. An inverter is an electrical device which converts direct current [DC] to alternating current [AC]. Solar cells produce direct current. Most of the electrical devices we commonly use however, expect a standard AC power supply. An inverter takes the DC from the solar cells and creates a useable form of AC. An inverter is moreover necessary to connect a PV system to the grid.

Balance of the system

The remaining electrical and mechanical components of a PV system are known as the balance of system components (BOS). Mechanical components include fasteners, brackets, enclosures, racks, and other structural supports. Electrical components include conductors, cables, conduits, junction boxes, enclosures, connectors, and terminations needed to make circuit connections between modules, disconnects, inverters, meters, and other electrical systems and equipment.

System Output

The electricity production of a PV system depends on external (environmental conditions) and internal (technology, layout of the system) parameters.

The efficiency of the PV module depends on:

Weather and temperature

Weather naturally affects the performance of solar modules but not entirely as you might expect. The amount of sunlight, of course, is most important in determining the output a solar electric system will produce at a given location, but temperature is also important.

As the electrical output of a PV module is dependent on the intensity of the light to which it is exposed, it is certain that a PV module exposed to the sun at midday by clear sky, will produce maximum of its output electricity. You can thus indeed say that PV modules will tend to generate more electricity on bright days than when skies are overcast. Nevertheless, photovoltaic systems do not need to be in direct sunlight to work, so even on overcast days a PV module will be generating some electricity.

Contrary to most people's intuition, solar electric panels actually generate more power at lower temperatures with other factors being equal. This is because solar cells are electronic devices and generate electricity from light, not heat. Like most electronic devices, solar cells operate more efficiently at cooler temperatures. In temperate climates, solar panels will generate less energy in the winter than in the summer but this is due to the shorter days, lower sun angles and greater cloud cover, not the cooler temperatures.

Environmental benefit

The environmental benefits of solar power are indisputable. Electricity generated from the sun produces no harmful emissions or pollutants. By installing solar panels, you can directly contribute to the repair and preservation of the environment by producing your own clean power.




Solar Modules
Solar photovoltaic modules mounted on the roof or grounds of the home or business, converts sunlight into DC power.

Inverter
The DC power is sent to a device called an inverter (or power conditioning unit) which converts the DC power from the solar modules to AC power. 

Electrical Panel
AC power travels from the inverter to electrical service panel (breaker box) AC power is than distributed to all the loads in the home or business.

Utility Grid
Excess power produced by the solar modules flows into the grid through electric meter, causing meter to run backwards and gaining a credit with the utility company.

Glossary Of Terms


Alternating Current (AC)
The electricity used in your home is AC, or Alternating Current. AC electricity changes voltage periodically, typically 60 times a second.

Ampere or Amp
Term used to measure the flow of electric current; abbreviated and commonly referred to as an amp.

Breaker Box
A breaker box holds all of circuit breakers. Circuit breakers turn electricity on/off to areas of house.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Carbon dioxide is an atmospheric gas that is present in the Earth's atmosphere at a low concentration and acts as a greenhouse gas. The most common global warming theories attribute temperature increases to increases in the greenhouse effect caused primarily by human-generated carbon dioxide (CO2).

Current
Current is the flow of electrons in an electric circuit.

DC Lighting
Lighting loads that are able to run on direct current (DC). Typically lights in a home or business are powered by alternating current (AC). Many off–grid homes use DC lighting to avoid losses in the inverter.

Direct Current (DC)
The electrons in direct current flow in one direction. The current produced by a battery is direct current. Your solar system also produces direct current.

Electrical Loads
A load is anything that uses electricity.

Electric service panel
Often referred to as a “breaker box”, this panel houses the breakers or fuses that protect the electrical loads in your facility. Power coming from either the utility company or your solar electric system will be distributed to loads in your building from here.

Energy Audit
A process used to evaluate the usage of electricity in your home or building. The purpose of the process is to identify opportunities to reduce usage through equipment retrofits or repairs.

Grid
The infrastructure used by utility companies to distribute power to it's consumers.

Grid-tied
Refers to solar electric systems that are capable of feeding power to the grid (or utility company). This is in contrast to “off–grid” or “stand alone” systems that do not have this capability.

Ground Mount
A solar electric system that is mounted on an independent structure anchored to the ground. This is in contrast to systems that are mounted on a building roof.

Grounding
The process of connecting equipment to a common ground or “earth”. This is done as a safety mechanism in order to avoid the unsafe energizing of equipment.

Inverter
A device that converts direct current (DC) produced by solar modules to alternating current (AC) that is used by most appliances.

KW
A unit used to measure power. Power is the product of current and voltage.

KWH
A unit used to measure energy consumption. This is the unit used by utilities to calculate your electric bill. It is the amount of energy consumed by a 1000-Watt appliance running for 1 hour.

Monitoring
This feature is crucial to owning a solar power system, and is encouraged as an add-on for all solar electric system owners. It's the only way to accurately track your system's production, and if your system isn't producing, we're alerted so we can send a solar professional to your home to service the panels. With monitoring, you can access your account online, track your solar generation, and follow your contribution to the health of the environment.

Net Metering
Agreement between the utility company and the system owner allowing for ‘banking' excess power produced by a solar system in the electric grid and ‘drawing' from the electric grid when more power is needed.

Nitrogen oxides (NOx)
Pollutant gases produced by burning fossil fuels.

Off-grid
A system not connected to a utility grid that utilizes batteries to store electricity.

On-grid
A system connected to the utility grid which utilizes the grid for backup energy.

Performance Based Incentive (PBI)
This is a program where rebates are paid based on energy production, designed to benefit owners of larger solar power systems.

Photovoltaic
A solar cell made up of semiconducting material which absorbs sunlight to produce electricity.

Photovoltaic Module
Solar cells are typically combined into modules containing approximately 40 cells.

Power
Electricity provided to a home, building, or community.

Roof Mount
Solar system attached to the roof of a residential or commercial building.

Solar Cell
A solar cell changes energy from the sun into electricity.

Solar hot water(domestic hot water, pool heating)
Solar panels used to heat water for the home and/or pool but does not supply electricity.

Solar Irradiance
The amount of solar energy that arrives at a specific area at a specific time.

Solar Module
Solar cells combined into a module with the purpose of harvesting solar energy.

Solar Noon
A time in which the position of the sun is at its highest point to collect solar energy.

Solar Panel
Photovoltaic device which converts light into electricity.

Solar shingles
Roof material that converts light into electricity without conventional solar panels.

Solar Thermal Systems
Use of direct sun to produce heat or steam to warm pools or domestic hot water.

Sulfur dioxide (SO2)
Pollutant, colorless gas with a choking odor produced by burning fossil fuels.

Voltage
The rate at which energy is drawn from a source that produces a flow of electricity.


Lifetime of the PV System

The estimated lifetime of a PV module is 30 years. Furthermore, the modules' performance is very high providing over 80% of the initial power after 25 years which makes photovoltaic a very reliable technology in the long term. Most PV systems installed more than 25 years ago, still produce energy today!

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