Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How Does Solar PV Work?

1. How does solar PV work? 

Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity. An inverter converts DC (like battery electricity) into AC (like household electricity) and sends it along to the home’s existing electric panel. The electric panel distributes this solar electricity to household appliances, augmenting it with traditional electricity from the utility grid. The home’s existing electric meter tracks how much electricity is purchased from the utility and also credits the homeowner’s account for the amount of solar electricity that was generated. This process is known as net metering. The utility grid still provides electric service to the home. PV stands for photovoltaic, the method of converting sunlight into direct-current electricity.

2. Are solar panels right for my home?

Every home is different. The best homes for solar have large, unshaded, south-facing rooftops that are not too steep. Homeowners that consume a lot of electricity and pay high electric rates benefit the most – by cutting their utility bill and saving the most money – from a solar roof.

3. How much does solar cost?

The cost of a solar home installation depends on the size of the system. Talk to a professional solar installer or try an online solar estimator tool. For many homeowners, solar is a smart financial decision. Compare the price of the system to the amount of money you will save every month and every year to see if solar is the right solution for you.

4. Will solar provide all of my electricity? 

Solar systems are usually not designed to provide 100% of your electricity. Buying electricity from the utility – staying grid-tied – makes sense at night, on rainy days and when electric rates are low. Buys electricity from the grid Credits your solar genera5on 

5. If the power goes out, will I still all have electricity?

No. For safety reasons, your solar system will automatically shut off if the power goes out. This protects utility workers from being exposed to live electricity.

6. What happens if it rains or snows? 

Solar electricity generation varies with the seasons, the hours of sunshine per day and the weather. It does not have to be completely sunny to produce electricity, but in bad weather, your production will not be 100%. Solar panels are designed to be tough enough to withstand hail, wind and snow.

7. How much money will I save with solar?

A professional solar installer can estimate your year-to-year savings. In addition to saving money on your electric bill, you earn a 30% federal tax credit for solar. Some states, but not Virginia, offer solar tax credits, rebates and solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs) which generate cash for the solar owner.

8. How long will a solar system last? 

Solar systems last over 25 years. Most panels are guaranteed for decades. Inverters last 12 to 15 years.

Misconception 1:
“Solar is an expensive way to make electricity.”
This is the number one misconception. First, solar was expensive in the past, just like any developing technology. Recently, economies of scale have significantly reduced solar costs. Second, most people do not realize the full revenue stream available from solar, which includes electric savings, tax credits, state rebates and Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) which can be sold for income. The value of solar increases every year when compared to increasing electric rates.

Misconception 2:
“I have to have batteries with my solar system.”
In the past this was true, but with the development of grid-tied inverters and net metering this is no longer the case. Batteries can be used to store electricity while the sun is shining. They are no longer needed because your utility will provide electricity. Your meter insures that you receive full retail credit for the solar electricity you produce. Batteries are still used where critical functions cannot be subject to power disruptions.

Misconception 3: 
“I should wait because solar technology keeps advancing.”
Do not wait. Solar technology has been around for decades. Scientists are making panels more efficient, but these improvements are incremental. Since the price of solar is lower than ever, and federal and state tax credits are in place only until 2016, there is no better time to install solar panels.

Misconception 4:
“Solar panels require extensive maintenance.”
 Solar panels have no moving parts and require no regular maintenance. Most owners let the rain clean their panels. Solar monitoring systems let you now see the actual production of each panel from your computer or smartphone. Most solar panel manufacturers warranty their panels for twenty-five years, but many last much longer than this.

Misconception 5: 
“Solar panels can damage my roof.” 
Solar panels actually preserve your roof by protecting it from UV rays. Since the panels are installed on rails, they actually never touch the roof. On commercial buildings, ballasted racking systems are used so there is no penetration of the roofing membrane.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Aug. 13 Meeting

We will meet in the back room of:

Marker 20
21 E. Queens Way
Hampton, VA 23669 

You can check out their menu at

Wine Street is closed north of Queen’s Way, so it’s difficult to access the parking lot behind Marker 20 unless you come in via Pembroke. So we recommend you park in the free public lot at the corner of Wine and Settler’s Landing (right across from the Hampton Carousel), and walk the short block to Queen’s Way.

To get there, take exit 267 off I-64 to Settler’s Landing Rd. Cross the Hampton River Bridge, and turn right at either Eaton or Wine and then left onto Queen’s Way. There’s some street parking and a lot out behind off Wine. Call Ken Wright (757.751.4156), if you need to contact him last minute.

If you plan on attending via webmeeting, please let us know. The audio situation should be different (maybe not better, just different) than last month, since we’ll be using a laptop, which has a built-in mic. So you won't get much, if any, of the group input, but you should be able to hear us okay.

The URL is:
Phone number: 213.416.1560
Access Code: 728 3742 (I believe you’ll need a # after that).

The agenda will be mostly devoted to 2013 Solar Tour organization, but feel free to propose other topics for us to include (preferably in advance). We’ll also have time for announcements and items of interest.