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Solar Electric FAQ's

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What does renewable energy mean?

Our planet has a limited supply of fossil fuels, like petroleum, coal, and natural gas. This supply will someday run out if we continue to use these traditional energy sources like we are today. In addition to being non-renewable, fossil fuels emit harmful greenhouse gases into the environment which poison the air, water and soils of the earth. Renewable energy refers to energy that is generated from a renewable source, in other words a source that does not have a limited supply, like the sun and the wind.


What are Photovoltaics?

Photovoltaic technology (PV) uses solar cells to convert sunlight directly into electricity. PV modules consist of semi-conducting material that absorbs sunlight in a way that frees electrons from atoms. Electricity is produced as the electrons flow through the semi-conducting material. A group of PV modules are typically combined in an array to generate electricity for a single structure. Large numbers can be combined to form a power plant.


Do PV modules work on cloudy or rainy days? 

PV modules produce power anytime the sun is out. On cloudy days power output is considerably reduced. 


What are the benefits of solar electric power?

PV technology has many benefits. It’s a quiet, clean source of energy requiring minimal maintenance, and lasts for decades. It is not only competitive with other sources of energy in terms of costs, but is much less expensive when externality costs are factored in for non-renewable alternative energy sources. Toxic air, water and soil are a heavy price to pay to keep obsolete dinosaur industries in control of the earth’s energy and health future. You only pay for the system equipment and installation, remember the sun if free. Another huge benefit is how often you’ll have a smile when seeing your sustainable energy system making money for you. 


What if the PV module is blocked by leaves, shadows?

If fallen leaves, shadows or something similar cover a PV module, resistance increases at the affected area and overall power output decreases significantly. However, this situation can be remedied with the use ofmicro inverters instead of central inverters. Ask us if you would like a further explanation of micro inverter advantages or go to the products and technology tab on the home page.


Does PV work well in cold weather?

Photovoltaics generate electricity from light not heat. PV technology is highly suitable for cold weather environments, on the whole even generating more power at lower temperatures. This is because they are electronic devices, and almost all electronic devices operate more efficiently at cooler temperatures.


Does the PV module surface require cleaning?

In most areas, during the drier months, an occasional cleaning is necessary. During our wettest months rainfall will remove the majority of grime.


How do PV modules convert sunlight into electricity?

Solar panels are made from thin layers of silicon, a semiconductor material that absorbs the suns’ rays and turns them into electricity. When photons from the sun hit the photovoltaic cells in a solar panel, electrons in the solar cell are knocked loose from their atom, allowing the electrons to flow freely. Solar cells force these electrons to flow in a certain direction along a wire, creating a current, which is then drawn off the cell to create electricity that powers your home or business.


Are there any effects other than producing electricity?

A heat shielding effect can be anticipated, with an associated reduction in air-conditioning load in the heat of summer.


How are watts (W) different from watt hours (Wh)?

Watts are units of power measured over one second. If one watt of electric power is used for one hour, the total volume of power consumed is expressed as one watt hour, or 1Wh. Similarly, 1,000 watts of power is expressed as one kilowatt (1kW) and 1,000 watt hours as one kilowatt hour (1kWh). If a 2kW system produces power continuously for five hours, the total volume of power generated is expressed as 10kWh.


What do the equipment ratings PTC, STC mean?

PTC refers to PVUSA Test Conditions, which were developed to test and compare PV systems as part of the PVUSA (Photovoltaics for Utility Scale Applications) project. PTC is 1,000 Watts per square meter solar irradiance, 20 degrees C air temperature, and wind speed of 1 meter per second at 10 meters above ground level. PV manufacturers use Standard Test Conditions, or STC, to rate their PV products. STC are 1,000 Watts per square meter solar irradiance, 25 degrees C cell temperature, air mass equal to 1.5, and ASTM G173-03 standard spectrum. The PTC rating, which is lower than the STC rating, is generally recognized as a more realistic measure of PV output because the test conditions better reflect "real-world" solar and climatic conditions, compared to the STC rating. All ratings in the list are DC (direct current) watts. 


PTC or STC don’t account for all "real-world" losses. Actual solar systems will produce lower outputs due to soiling, shading, module mismatch, wire losses, inverter and transformer losses, shortfalls in actual nameplate ratings, panel degradation over time, and high-temperature losses for arrays mounted close to or integrated within a roofline. These loss factors can vary by season, geographic location, mounting technique, azimuth, and array tilt. The highest performing systems will have a loss factor of between 25% - 33%. 

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