Frequently-Asked Questions

INSTALLATION AND LOGISTICS

Will a solar installation work well at my location?

Will a solar installation work well at my location?


Photovoltaics were initially utilized by NASA for use in space because they are extremely reliable and long lasting. Standard solar panels are typically under warranty for 20 years with a .05% decrease in production annually. The inverters need replacement typically once every 15years. Overall, the expected lifetime for a solar-electric system is around 50 years.

How long does it take to complete a project?

How long does it take to complete a project?


Depending on the size of the system, the actual installation will take only a few weeks at the most. The majority of the project including design, engineering, permitting and equipment sourcing occurs off-site. Most projects take 1-6 months to complete, depending on the permitting and approval process.

SOLAR ENERGY SAVINGS QUESTIONS

What does net-metering mean?

What does net-metering mean?


Net Metering is an agreement by which the customer is able to run the meter forward in times where they use more than they produce, as well as run the meter backwards in times when they produce more energy than they use. Most states have net-metering laws which require the utility to allow their customers to “net-meter”.

SOLAR INCENTIVE QUESTIONS

What incentives are available to help cover the cost of a solar energy system?

What incentives are available to help cover the cost of a solar energy system?


There are three main categories of incentives- federal,state, and utility. Federal incentives apply throughout the US (although some entities may not be able to claim them) and are typically in the form of tax benefits. State incentives are awarded by each state and vary in the amount available and the structure through which they are awarded. Utility incentives only apply to a given utility’s service area and are administered by a company as opposed to the government. You can get more information about incentives available in your area by visiting www.dsireusa.org or by contacting altPOWER.

 

SOLAR TECHNOLOGY QUESTIONS

What is the Solar Services Model which is often called a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)?

What is the Solar Services Model which is often called a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)?


The Solar Services model is when a building owner allows their roof to be used for the installation of a solar system. An outside party owns the system, receives the rebates and incentives, and sells the power to the host site at a pre-determined rate which is typically less than the utility price. These deals are structured to be long term agreements and are a great hedge against rising energy prices for companies that cannot afford a larger initial investment.

What type of maintenance is required on a solar energy system?

What type of maintenance is required on a solar energy system?


Once of the best features of a solar system is that it requires little to no maintenance once it is operating. The accumulation of normal amounts of dust and dirt will not impact system performance in a noticeable way and rain will provide more than enough cleaning. The only occasion when regular maintenance may be required is if the system is located in a particularly dirty area.

How long will a solar energy system last?

How long will a solar energy system last?


Solar electric systems are designed to operate with very little maintenance for 20+ years. The systems have no moving parts and the electrical equipment required is relatively simple. Once a system is installed it operates on its own, shutting down at night and restarting in the morning, without any help from the owner. If a problem does arise within the system, the equipment will notify the owner, via an error message on the inverter, that a technician should be called. Problems are typically simple to remedy, for example blown fuses or other common electrical occurrences. All components of the system are warrantied.

What are the components of a solar energy system?

What are the components of a solar energy system?


The major components of a solar system are:

Modules – Solar cells combined into one big panel to harness the sun’s electricity
Inverter – Device used to convert direct current (DC) power into alternating current (AC), the type of electrical current we most commonly use in the US.
Racking system – What we use to attach the modules to the structure used to keep the panels stationary either on the roof or the ground.
Data Acquisition System (DAS) – A device which monitors power output to ensure that the system is operating properly.This data can also be displayed on a website and/or a screen at your facility.

How does solar energy work?

How does solar energy work?


In its simplest definition, when sunlight hits the photovoltaic cell (today generally made of silicon) its energy knocks loose the electrons, causing them to flow and create an electric current. That current then travels along tiny metallic strips to a junction box which is typically located on the back of a solar panel. Several solar panels are then wired together to create one system. At that point all the wires run to an inverter where the DC power which was created by the solar cells is converted to AC power. Once the electricity has been converted to AC, it can be interconnected into most electrical panels and thus feed the building with power.

What does PV stand for?

What does PV stand for?


“PV” stands for Photovoltaic and Photovoltaics (PV) is the field of technology and research related to the application of solar cells for energy by converting sunlight directly into electricity. Due to the growing demand for clean sources of energy, the manufacture of solar cells and photovoltaic arrays has expanded dramatically in recent years.
Photovoltaic production has been doubling every two years, increasing by an average of 48 percent each year since 2002, making it the world’s fastest-growing energy technology. At the end of 2008, according to preliminary data, cumulative global installations reached 15,200 megawatts. Roughly 90% of this generating capacity consists of grid-tied electrical systems. Such installations may be ground-mounted (and sometimes integrated with farming and grazing) or built into the roof or walls of a building, known as Building Integrated Photovoltaic or BIPV for short.
Photovoltaics are best known as a method for generating electric power by using solar cells packaged in photovoltaic modules, often electrically connected in multiples as solar photovoltaic arrays to convert energy from the sun into electricity. To explain the photovoltaic solar panel more simply, photons from sunlight knock electrons into a higher state of energy, creating electricity. The term photovoltaic denotes the unbiased operating mode of a photodiode in which current through the device is entirely due to the transduced light energy. Virtually all photovoltaic devices are some type of photodiode.
Solar cells produce direct current electricity from light, which can be used to power equipment or to recharge a battery. The first practical application of photovoltaics was to power orbiting satellites and other spacecraft, but today the majority of photovoltaic modules are used for grid connected power generation. In this case an inverter is required to convert the DC to AC. There is a smaller market for off grid power for remote dwellings, roadside emergency telephones, remote sensing, and cathodic protection of pipelines.

 

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