Solar Energy Facts
Photo courtesy Jordan Winery.
Why is solar power good for the environment?
Sun-generated power is clean – no pollution, noise or fossil fuels. A typical 6 kilowatt system will eliminate 120 tons of carbon dioxide over its 30+ year lifetime.
What is a Megawatt?
Watts (W) are the yardstick for measuring power. A one hundred watt light bulb, for example, is rated to consume one hundred watts of power when turned on. If such a light bulb were on for four hours it would consume a total of 400 watt-hours (Wh) of energy. Watts, therefore, measure instantaneous power while watt-hours measure the total amount of energy consumed over a period of time.
A kilowatt is 1,000 watts and a megawatt is 1,000 kilowatts. An average sized home can be powered electrically by about 3 or 4 kilowatts.
How does solar power work?
Solar energy systems turn sunlight into electricity. Silicon wafers capture photons from sunlight, turn them into DC power, which is then transformed into 120 volt AC power and connected to your existing electrical system as well as the local electrical grid. When the sun shines, you can generate more power than you consume (your meter will literally spin backwards). At night you'll draw on utility company power, essentially using the electrical grid as a giant storage battery.
What are the components of a solar power system?
- Solar Cells: "Solar power cells" make up the building blocks of a solar energy system. These solar power (photovoltaic) cells convert light energy into electricity at the atomic level.
- Solar Module: Multiple cells are usually combined into a complete "solar module" that also includes a frame for the system, electrical interconnections and mounting hardware.
- Solar Panel: Multiple modules are assembled into a "solar panel" that is then secured to the roof or other structure.
- Inverter: An "inverter," usually installed on the outside of your home, takes the DC output from the cells and transforms it into usable AC power.
- Electric Panel: Electricity will be sent from the inverter to your "electric panel" (or "breaker box"). Your meter will spin backward when your solar energy system produces more electricity than you need and will spin forward at night or on cloudy days.
- Utility Grid: The "utility grid" refers to the electricity going to/from your electric provider. When you go solar, you will send back to the grid the electricity that you produce in excess of your consumption, and use grid electricity at night or on cloudy days.