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Solar Power Basics

We explain exactly how solar power works and how it can benefit you!

THE BASICS OF SOLAR POWER

Are you considering solar power for your home but not quite sure exactly how it works? In this section, we’ll explain the basics of how solar power works, its benefits and requirements, so that you can make an informed decision for your household.

Solar power systems can bring a wealth of benefits to your household. Unlike coal- or gas-powered energy, solar power is a clean, 100% renewable source of energy. It enables you to be largely independent of the public utility companies, with a substantially reduced energy bill and ROI rates of up to 25%. Once installed, solar panels require little to no maintenance and are unobtrusive, occupying roof space that would otherwise go unused. Setting up your own PV (photovoltaic) system allows you to become a small-scale producer of energy yourself, with the potential to sell your excess energy back to the grid, or store it for later use.

Aside from the financial standpoint, solar panels have an invaluable environmental benefit: you’re doing your bit not to have another coal-fired station built, and are more in control of your energy usage thanks to the monitoring capabilities of modern PV setups.

How Does a Residential Solar System Work

The basics of a solar power system operation involve converting photons, which are essentially units of energy coming from the sun, into electricity and then transferring it to home appliances to be used to its best advantage. This is accomplished via solar panels installed on the roof or any other area with ample access to sunlight. Solar panels are rated in terms of kilowatt hours, a system which allows easy and direct comparison with the service supplied by public utility companies. A kilowatt-hour, or kWh, is a predetermined measure of electricity, commonly reported on your electricity bills.

So what does a typical residential solar system consist of? Typically, a home PV system is made up of a set of solar panels and, optionally, batteries, which enable energy storage for use during peak tariff. An inverter may be required to convert DC energy coming from the solar panels and turning it into AC, if not already comprised in the battery solution. Such a system needs little to no maintenance over the years, as rain periodically takes care of washing off any dust or sediment. GoSolar recommends giving your solar panels a more thorough rinse every five years, a service available upon request.

What are Optimum Conditions for Solar Power

Ideally, solar panels should be installed on a surface benefiting from unobstructed access to light. In fact, any shade will limit the number of photons getting through, impacting the production coming from a solar panel. Fortunately, most panels have the ability to divide themselves up so that, should a little shade, or an antenna cover a part of the panel, you won’t lose the whole production of that panel. Naturally, clouds or absence of sunlight will cause the output of a solar panel to drop, until, at night-time, the solar panels shut down and resume their production in the morning, when the sun rises.

What about the terms “off-grid setup” and “grid-tie setup”? An off-grid setup typically occurs in instances where the connection to the grid is either very intermittent or non-existent, which then warrants a high degree of independence from the electricity supplier. An off-grid setup involves both autonomous generation and storage of energy, which becomes a necessity in case of poor production through bad weather for hours, or days, as is accomplished via a battery backup. A separate circuit is required in case of a power switch off in order to avoid any interference with power line work. On the other hand, a grid-tie setup entails a stable connection to the grid; the goal is to supplement, rather than substitute, the electricity distributed by a utilities’ supplier. This type of arrangement is much more common. In the case of a grid-tie setup, there are some stringent rules concerning solar energy production should the grid fail. The law mandates that, in case of power supply shut down, the residential PV productions needs also shut down. The logic behind this is that during maintenance work, power is turned off as a safety mechanism to allow for safe access to the power lines.

How Much Does Solar Power Cost?

Now let’s talk about costs, in particular, the cost of solar power for a household. Including full equipment (solar panels and battery) and installation costs, the energy generated via a typical PV system costs on average between 15 and 20 cents per kilowatt-hour, given the lifetime of the various components. When compared to peak-hour tariffs, which today can reach 60 cents a kilowatt hour, solar energy is extremely profitable for a household, making it possible to recoup your initial investment within about four to five years for solar panels (ROI of 20-25%), and about eight to ten for batteries (ROI of 10-12.5%). The viability of PV systems has increased dramatically over the last few years, thanks to advancements in solar power technology: today, solar panels are up to +65% more efficient as compared to those of five years ago.

We hope we’ve answered all your solar power questions. Please feel free to reach out in case you need to know more. We’re available via phone and email at the contacts below.

FAQs

Q: What is a grid tie setup?
A grid-tie setup involves solar energy generation in addition to, rather than substitution of, the service supplied by public utility companies. A separate circuit is required in case of a power switch off in order not to interfere with power line work.

Q: What does a typical home solar system consist of?
A home PV system is made up of a set of solar panels and, optionally, batteries, which enable energy storage for peak tariff. An inverter may be required to convert DC energy coming from the solar panels and turning it into AC, if not already comprised in the battery solution.

Q: Should I add batteries to my system, and can I add them later?
Absolutely. Without batteries, you aren’t getting the full value of your solar system, especially if you’re not at home during the day, when the production is at its maximum. Batteries are capable of storing that excess energy for later use, instead of letting it go to the grid at 10-11 a kilowatt hour. The battery system we sell is a modular, plug-and-play system, which can be added and increased at a later stage if preferred, up to a maximum of 13 batteries per system.

Q: What kind of maintenance is involved with having a system installed?
Maintenance required for a residential PV system is minimal. Rain already removes most of the dust that settles on solar panels; GoSolar recommends giving them a more thorough rinse every five years, a service available upon request.

Q: What are optimum conditions for a solar system to operate? Will my solar system work on a cloudy day? How will the shade around my home affect my solar panels?
Solar systems work best in unobstructed sunlight. Any shade will impact the production coming from a solar panel, reducing it proportionally. Any absence of sunlight, for instance due to clouds or time of day, will cause the output of a solar panel to drop, until, at night-time, the solar panels shut down and resume their production in the morning, when the sun rises.

Q: How quickly can I get a return on my money?
Solar energy production is extremely profitable for a household, with four to five years investment recouping and ROI rates of up to 25%.