What are some key terms for solar?

The phrase "solar power" can refer to anything that is powered by the sun. Solar thermal utilizes radiant heat, whereas solar photovoltaics (abbreviated as PV) create electricity from sunshine.

Individual solar cells are created from a silicon wafer material. These cells are wired together- and protected in a glass module case- to create a solar panel. Solar panels are also called solar modules. A group of modules wired together are referred to as an array (or sometimes called a system).

To convert DC electricity to AC electricity, the solar PV array needs an inverter. An inverter creates a regulated, high-quality type of electricity that US homes use, and that energy grids require for interconnection.


Is my house right for solar?

Since our client base is in currently in North America, we ask people to think of a circle with a horizontal line through the center.

If your house (or yard) has a shade-free area facing to the south of that 180° line, then you might be a contender for solar.

Even east or west facing roofs can produce a significant amount of solar electricity. To give accurate estimates for the yearly electricity production, our company provides free solar site estimates that factor in the orientation of the array and any potential shading.


How do I know the electricity production estimates are accurate?

Nobody can say for certain when the sun will shine. However, some of our country’s finest scientific minds at the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) have been taking annual readings, creating models, and figuring this stuff for the rest of us. We run our system designs, combined with a custom solar site assessment, through their PVWatts calculator to create the most accurate estimate of annual electrical production possible.

Solar PV isn’t about how sunny it is from one minute to the next, or even from hour to hour. It’s about accumulating energy throughout each day, adding up those days and weeks and months of the solar PV array performing its task, and ending up with a yearly average that is highly accurate and predictable.


Is solar really a green alternative? I’ve heard there is more CO2 created in their manufacture.

This is a common misconception. The term “energy-payback” is used to describe the period of time until the amount of energy necessary to create the system has been offset by the energy created by the system. According to a a study by the NREL, this duration is 0.5 to 4 years (depending on your choice of panels). Since the typical solar module warranty is for 25 years, this creates decades of clean and renewable electricity production without CO2.

If everything is made in China, how does this help the U.S. economy?

While China does manufacture a range of solar PV equipment, there is a thriving manufacturing base for solar PV equipment in the US, some dating to the 1980s. As far as jobs in the US, a recent Slate.com article made the case that “The Solar Business Now Employs More Americans Than Coal Mining.”

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