Solar Information

Solar Power

Solar Power is the conversion of sunlight into another form of usable energy.  Outlined below are the basics steps showing how sunlight can be converted into either electricity (photovoltaics) or heat (thermal), and how these types of energy can be stored and used.

Solar PV

Photovoltaics, commonly referred to as Solar PV, is a method of generating power by using solar cells to convert energy from the sun into electricity. When light shines on a solar panel the solar cells produce direct current “DC” electricity (like a battery).  These panels are connected to a piece of equipment called an inverter which converts the DC power to AC power, just like the kind your home uses.  The AC output from this inverter can be wired directly into your building’s circuit breaker panel and provide power for your building.  How much power it provides depends on many factors such as the size of the system, the tilt and direction the panels face, and how much shade covers the panels throughout the day.

Going solar does not usually mean going off grid.  Solar panels will only produce power during the day when the sun is shining, so an alternate source of power is needed at night or during inclement weather.  This can be in the form of batteries, but if a connection to a utility company is available, this provides a much less expensive and more efficient backup source.  Batteries add a significant cost to a solar system, and are also much less efficient than the utility grid, causing a large portion of any power generated to be lost in the chemical conversion process that takes place within batteries.

Net Meter Vs Sell All

The utility company allows you to connect your solar system to the grid in one of two way – you can either connect it directly to your breaker panel and use the power yourself (Net Meter) or you can have the utility install a second meter and sell all the power back to the utility.  Green State Power can help you decide which option is best for you based on how much your electricity costs, how much electricity you use, and how large of a system you would like.

During the day, your solar system may produce more power than is consumed and it will feed the excess power into the utility grid, allowing the utility to act like a perfect battery for you.  This will spin your electric meter backward giving you a credit on your bill, and allowing you to then use that power at night when your panels aren’t producing power.

Solar Thermal

Solar water heating has existed for centuries and has been used for bathing, hand washing, and home heating. It has always been a very effective method to heat water, but modern materials and knowledge have made the process far more efficient.

Today solar water heating is most often used for domestic hot water “DHW” but also for pool and space heating. Domestic hot water systems are made up of solar collectors, a storage tank, and a pump.  The collectors have a dark surface that is heated by the sun and pipes on the inside where the water becomes hot.  An additional solar hot water storage is typically added to store the hot water.  All systems incorporate a backup heating element (electric or gas) so that if there has not been enough sun to fully heat your water, the backup element will still maintain the water at your preset temperature, so you never need to worry about a cold shower, even on a cloudy winter day.

As the sun shines on the collectors they heat up, and once they are warmer than the water in your storage tank, a pump is turned on and the hot water is pumped from the collectors down to the storage tank in your home. As long as the collectors are warmer than the tank, the pump will stay on, continually allowing the sun to heat the water.  The water heated on a sunny day is stored and used whenever needed, this allows people to shower at night or the next morning and still make use of the solar hot water.

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