Top 10 Things You Should Know Before Going Solar
Solar panel systems are systems that turn sunlight into electricity. You can use the electricity generated by your solar panel system to power your home, your business, or even your car. Here are the top ten things you should know before going solar.
Solar panel systems are a great way for you to save your money, no matter what your budget is.
If you can afford to pay your electricity bill every month, you can afford to install a solar panel system. With a $0-down solar loan, solar lease or PPA, you can finance your system and see immediate savings.
Installing a solar panel system is a great investment.
Investing in a solar panel system can deliver better returns than stocks and bonds – and now is the right time to make that investment. While solar photovoltaic technology is improving incrementally each year, financial incentives and rebates will decrease as solar becomes more popular.
Solar photovoltaic systems have been around for a long time.
Solar photovoltaic systems are a well-proven technology first invented in 1954 by scientists at Bell Labs. Today, solar panels are installed on over one million homes in the U.S.
Solar panel systems are highly durable.
Solar photovoltaic panels are made of tempered glass and can withstand hail, snow, rain, and high winds. They can even extend the life of your roof by protecting it from daily wear and tear.
Solar power systems can produce electricity for 25 or more years.
Most solar panel manufacturers offer a 25-year power production warranty guaranteeing that their solar panels will continue to generate electricity at a certain capacity for the warranty’s duration.
Solar power systems are practically maintenance-free.
Solar panel systems are incredibly durable. Except in extreme circumstances, they don’t need to be washed or cleaned.
Solar panels can be installed almost anywhere in the United States.
Most locations in the United States get enough sunlight to produce enough electricity from solar panels. The most important factors to consider when you evaluate your solar panel options are the rates you pay for electricity and the rebates and incentives available to you.
Solar energy systems are tied to the electric grid and do not require batteries to store power.
When you install a solar energy system on your property, you remain connected to the electricity grid. At times when your system produces more electricity than you use, you receive credit for the electricity you send to the grid; if you need more electricity than your solar energy system is producing, you can draw it from the grid.
Solar power systems can eliminate most of your electricity bill.
With the right planning, your solar panels can generate enough electricity to meet your needs over a 12-month period. If you have enough roof space to install the right size solar panel system, the power that your panels will produce will effectively eliminate most of your electricity bill.
Solar photovoltaic panels can be installed on the roof of your home or commercial property, on the ground or on a solar canopy.
Solar panels can be installed practically anywhere that receives direct sunshine for most of the day and is not shaded by trees or buildings. Panels that face south will produce the most electricity, but your panels can also face east or west.
The History of Solar Panels
For the last century and a half, inventors have been working hard to make improvements in the efficiency and aesthetics of solar technology.
Solar energy technology began with a young physicist in France, Edmond Becquerel. In 1839, Becquerel observed and discovered the photovoltaic effect. This is the process that produces a voltage or electric current when exposed to light or radiant energy. A few decades later, French mathematician, Augustin Mouchot, began registered patents for solar-powered engines in the 1860s. All around the world inventors were inspired by the patents and began filing for patents on solar powered devices as early as 1888.
In 1883 New York inventor Charles Fritts created the first solar cell by coating selenium with a thin layer of gold. Fritts reported that the selenium module produced a current that was continuous, constant, and of considerable force. This cell achieved an energy conversion rate of 1 to 2 percent, but most modern solar cells work at an efficiency rate of 15 to 20 percent. While it was only a small amount of energy, this was the beginning of photovoltaic solar innovation in America.
A few years later in 1888, Edward Weston received two patents for solar cells. For these patents, Weston proposed “to transform radiant energy derived from the sun into electrical energy, or through electrical energy into mechanical energy.” Light energy is focused by a lens onto the solar cell. The light heats up the solar cell and causes electrons to be released and current to flow. In this instance, light creates heat, which creates electricity. This is the reverse of the way an incandescent light bulb works, converting electricity to heat that then generates light.
Also in 1888, Russian scientist Aleksandr Stoletov created the first solar cell based on the photoelectric effect. This is when light falls on a material and electrons are released. In 1894, American inventor Melvin Severy received patents for what was basically early solar cells based on the discovery of the photoelectric effect. Severy also received a second patent in 1889 which was also meant for using the suns thermal energy to produce electricity for heat, light, and power.
Almost a decade later, American inventor Harry Reagan received patents for thermal batteries which are used to store and release thermal energy. This battery was invented to collect and store heat by having a large mass that can heat up and release energy. Systems today use this technology to generate electricity by conventional turbines. In 1897, Reagan was granted a patent for an application of solar heat to thermo batteries. His invention was a means of collecting, storing, and distributing solar heat as needed.
In the 1950s, Bell Laboratories realized that semiconducting materials were more efficient than selenium. They created a solar cell that was 6 percent more efficient. While it was considered the first practical device for converting solar energy to electricity, it was still cost prohibitive for most people. Silicon solar cells are expensive to produce, and when you combine multiple cells to create a solar panel, it’s even more expensive for the public to purchase. The University of Delaware is credited with creating one of the first solar buildings, “Solar One,” in 1973. The construction ran on a combination of solar thermal and solar photovoltaic power. The building didn’t use solar panels; instead, solar was integrated into the rooftop.
In the 1970s, an energy crisis in the US began and Congress passed the Solar Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Act of 1974. The government was more committed than ever to make solar power a more viable and affordable option for the public. After the debut of “Solar One,” people saw solar energy as an option for their homes. Growth slowed in the 1980s due to the drop in traditional energy prices. But in the next decades, the federal government was more involved with solar energy research and development, creating grants and tax incentives for those who used solar systems. According to Solar Energy Industries Association, solar has had an average annual growth rate of 50 percent in the last 10 years in the United States, largely due to the Solar Investment Tax Credit enacted in 2006. Installing solar is also more affordable now due to installation costs dropping over 70 percent in the last decade.
What is Solar Energy?
Solar energy is the most abundant energy source on Earth, and as we continue to develop ways to capture it, it is an important aspect of our clean energy future.
During the day when the sun is shining, each particle of sunlight that reaches earth contains energy that fuels our planet. Solar energy is the ultimate source responsible for all of our weather systems and energy sources on earth, and enough solar radiation hits the surface of the planet each hour to theoretically fill our global energy needs for nearly an entire year.
This energy comes from the sun, which is like a massive nuclear reactor. Deep in the Sun’s core, nuclear fusion reactions produce massive amounts of energy that radiates outward from the Sun’s surface and into space in the form of light and heat.
How does solar power work?
Solar power can be harnessed and converted to usable energy using photovoltaics or solar thermal collectors. Although solar energy only accounts for a small amount of overall global energy use, the falling cost of installing solar panels means that more and more people in more places can take advantage of solar energy. Solar is a clean, renewable energy resource, and figures to play an important part in the global energy future.
How to harness solar energy for usable power?
There are many ways to use energy from the sun. The two main ways to use energy from the sun are photovoltaics and solar thermal capture. Photovoltaics are much more common for smaller-scale electricity projects such as a residential solar panel installation, and solar thermal capture is typically only used for electricity production on massive scales in utility solar installations. In addition to producing electricity, lower temperature variations of solar thermal projects can be used for heating and cooling.
Solar is one of the fastest growing and cheapest sources of power in the world and will continue to spread rapidly in the coming years. With solar panel technology improving each year, the economic benefits of solar improve, adding to the environmental perks of choosing a clean, renewable energy source.
5 Things to Check on Your Solar System Each Month to Keep it Running Smoothly
With their few moving parts and limited maintenance needs, solar panels can typically last years without experiencing any issues. However, in order to keep them working at peak performance and to keep from having any major maintenance issues, it is important to give them preventative care throughout the year. Here are the top five things you should be doing each month in order to keep your solar panels working the best they can.
Watch for dirt and debris buildup
Being sure to keep your solar panels free from any obstructions helps ensure that you are maximizing the efficiency of your system. You should be sure to remove snow, dust, and leaves from your panels on a monthly basis to keep your system running smoothly. However, if your system is installed in a way that could put you at risk of a fall, do not attempt to clean them yourself. Many solar systems are mounted low enough that cleaning is possible from the ground using a land-handled broom. For panels mounted higher, your installer will likely have a solar panel cleanings service to recommend. Having a professional come to clean your panels can help ensure that your panels receive a thorough cleaning and that they will not be damaged in the process.
Inspect your rack and roof penetrations
Solar panels are mounted to your roof with a rack. This rack carries the weight of the panels and holds them to the roof using several sturdy bolt penetrations. A monthly visual inspection is a great way to catch any potential drainage or structural issues before they become serious. While it can be tough to identify drainage issues from the outside, they should be visible from the inside in the form of leaks. You should do a monthly visual inspection of your attic space to see if you notice any leaks under the areas where your panels are mounted.
Missing bolts can also be an indicator of impending rack failure. Panels can loosen in their mounts over time due to snow and wind, so if you do find a potential issue contact your solar panel installer to inspect and repair the rack.
Examine potential corrosion
Solar systems are made with durable and long lasting components, allowing them to produce energy for twenty-five years or more. Your rack and panels will likely be made from corrosion-resistant materials, but after a long period of time corrosion could develop and compromise the strength of your system components. Doing a visual check for corrosion once a month helps to give you the opportunity to address any issues before they become serious.
Check for broken glass
The silicon wafers inside your solar panels are covered by extremely durable tempered glass. This glass is rated to withstand bad weather conditions, even hair storms. However, fallen tree branches or an especially bad storm can result in broken panels. If you notice any broken panels, you should call your solar installer immediately.
Look for faulty wiring
All solar arrays contain an inverter, which converts the direct current the panels produce into the alternating current used in your homes electrical system. In many cases, each panel is wired in a series to one single inverter which creates many potential points of failure.
Faulty wiring can be difficult to diagnose. There will sometimes be a visual indication such as a snapped wire or a broken connection, but this may not always be the case. However, there are two ways to diagnose faulty wiring. Many of the new systems come with real-time production tracking, so if your system uses this technology you can check it to see if it is under-performing. If you have an older system that does not use this technology, you can use your monthly bill as an indicator of any potential issues. If you notice a problem, do not attempt to repair it yourself, but instead be sure to call your installer.
Breakthrough in New Material to Harness Solar Power
Solar energy is quickly becoming one of the most popular forms of clean energy. With new technologies being discovered, solar power is one step closer to becoming the most affordable and efficient way to harness the cleanest, most abundant renewable energy source in the world.
A physicist at the University of Toledo, Dr. Yanfa Yan, has been pushing solar cells to new levels and recently made a significant breakthrough in the chemical formula and process to make the new material to harness solar power.
Yan, who has been working with the U.S. Department of Energy, envisions that the ultra-high efficiency material, a tandem perovskite solar cell, will be ready to debut in full-size solar panels on the consumer market soon.
Perovskites, compound materials with a special crystal structure formed through chemistry, would replace silicon which as of now remains the solar-cell material of choice for converting the suns light into electrical energy.
“We are producing higher-efficiency, lower-cost solar cells that show great promise to help solve the world energy crisis,” Yan said. “The meaningful work will help protect our planet for our children and future generations. We have a problem consuming most of the fossil energies right now, and our collaborative team is focused on refining our innovative way to clean up the mess.”
The research paper published in the journal Science discusses how the photovoltaics team is fine-tuning a mix of lead and tin to advance technology closer to its maximum efficiency. These efforts have recently brought the efficiency of the new solar cells up to about 23 percent, while silicon solar panels on the market today have about an 18 percent efficiency rating.
About five years ago Yan’s team at the University of Toledo identified the ideal properties of perovskites and he has since focused on producing an all-perovskite tandem solar cell that brings together two different solar cells to increase the total electrical power generated by using two different parts of the sun’s spectrum.
While Yan’s team has improved the quality of the materials and the process to manufacture them at a low cost, more progress needs to be made. “The material cost is low and the fabrication cost is low, but the lifetime of the material is still an unknown,” Song said. “We need to continue to increase efficiency and stability.”
“Also, lead is considered a toxic substance,” Yan said. “I am determined to work with the solar industry to ensure solar panels made of this material can be recycled so they don’t cause harm to the environment.”
Top 5 Reasons to go Solar
Although many people think that the only benefits of going solar are saving the environment and cutting electricity costs, there are also many other reasons why going solar is beneficial. Here are the top five benefits that going solar could have for you.
By installing a solar system, you can benefit from numerous environmental benefits. Some of the main ways a solar system can help the environment are by helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a decrease in dependence on fossil fuels, cleaner air and water, and stronger economic growth.
The United States relies heavily on nonrenewable energy sources such as oil and natural gas, but at some point, these resources will run out due to the cost and environmental damage. However, solar power is a renewable source of energy that will never run out, and by going solar you will no longer have to worry about the rising costs of nonrenewable energy sources.
By going solar you can reap monetary benefits such as savings each month, savings over decades, and a lifetime return on your investment. No matter the size of your solar system, you will instantly realize the savings on your electric bill and will continue to save on future bills. With a big enough system, you can even produce enough energy to eliminate your electric bill completely.
Add value to your home
Having a solar panel system installed on your home can increase the property value of your home by about seventeen percent, resulting in being able to ask a higher price for your home than you would have been able to before the system was installed.
Stay ahead of the curve
By installing a solar panel system on your home, you will not only be keeping up with the property owners in your community, but you will be outpacing them. By installing a solar panel system, you can outdo your neighbors by generating passive income through a solar energy investment in your home. There are also many states offering renewable energy incentives for property owners who are investing in solar panel energy systems. Once you qualify for the incentive system, your local energy company will be responsible for paying you for the clean energy produced by your solar panels, resulting in a zero-balance owed bill or a negative electricity bill.
In order to function properly, solar panels must have inverters to convert the direct current electricity that your panels produce into usable alternating current electricity. One type of inverter that can be used in your solar panels is string inverters, which are one of the oldest and most reliable types of converters on the market.
What are string inverters and how do they work?
A string inverter system connects groups of solar panels in your system by “strings”. Each of these strings connects to a single inverter, most often placed on the side of your home or in your garage, where electricity is converted from direct current to alternating current electricity. Since panels are connected in strings to the inverter, if any of the panels are under-producing energy, the panels on that string will only be able to produce as much energy as the affected panel. Most string inverters are capable of handling multiple strings of panels attached to it. The size of the string inverter in kilowatts and the wattage of the panels you use will determine how many panels you can string on one inverter without wasting energy.
When should you use string inverters with a solar panel system?
String inverters can be very successful for many solar panel systems, but they may not be the best choice in some cases. Since string panel systems can only produce as much energy as the lowest-performing panel on the string, string inverters are not the best choice for solar systems that experience a lot of shade. Also, if your solar panel system will be facing different directions, a string inverter system may not be for you. Since panels facing different directions will be producing varying amounts of electricity, having a string inverter could limit the amount of energy your system may be able to produce.
What should you consider when evaluating string inverters?
There are a few things to keep in mind when evaluating string inverters. The first thing to consider is efficiency. Just like the panels themselves, string inverters have varying efficiencies. An inverters efficiency is a measure of how much energy is lost in the form of heat during the conversion for DC to AC electricity. Another thing to consider is the size. Solar inverter sizing depends on several factors such as the size of your system, your geographical location, and other site-specific considerations. Warranties can also be important when looking at string inverters and most of them typically come with a product warranty between five damage to your inverter system. Lastly, price is an important factor to consider. String inverters are not typically the most expensive component of a solar system, but it is still important to consider their prices. and fifteen years. These warranties typically cover problems like manufacturer defects and environmental.