Solar Photovoltaic Frequently Asked Questions

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1 Table of Contents 1. What is Solar Energy? What are the basic component of a Solar PV system?.2 3. What are the different types of PV systems ATL offers? What is the difference between mono-crystalline and poly-crystalline panels? What happens when the sun doesn t shine? What brand PV Panels does ATL represent? What is the maintenance requirement for Solar PV Panels? Will my solar electric system operate when there is a loss of Power from JPSCo? Can I use solar PV system to make hot water or to heat my house/office?? How much power does a PV System store? Do I need battery back up for my system? How many solar panels do I need to run my home? Should I consider a ground mounted solar system? How much does a PV system cost? Does the installation of a PV system increase the asset value of my home? How long will my solar PV modules last? Is a PV system hurricane proof? How much space will I need on my roof or in my yard for a solar PV system? Can I add more solar panels to my system later? What is a kwh? How many solar panels do I need for an electric solar power system? Do I need to be concerned with the condition of my existing roof? How does shade affect my PV system? I m concerned about the appearance of the panels on my roof How do I know if solar panels will work on my home? How long will it take to install a solar power system in my home? What components do I need to install a grid-tied solar electric system?...6 1

2 1. What is Solar Energy? Solar energy takes advantage of the sun's rays to generate heat or electricity. It is an infinitely renewable resource and unique for its ability to generate energy in a quiet, clean, and consistent manner. Photovoltaic cells are comprised of a semiconductor material such as silicon. Added to the silicon are the elements phosphorous and boron which create conductivity within the cell and activate the movement of electrons. The electrons move across the cell when activated by the sunlight's energy into the electrical circuit hooked up to the solar panel 2. What are the basic components of a Solar PV System? PV Panels, Inverters, PV Controllers and batteries are the major components of a PV system PV Panels or Modules: Photovoltaic Modules and/or panels are used to convert sunlight into direct current electricity. Inverter: Change direct current from a PV array and/or batteries into ac electricity that can be used by conventional ac loads Batteries: Batteries store DC energy from a PV array as chemical energy so that it can be used during times when a PV array is not producing power-namely, when it is dark outside Charge Controllers: Regulate how much PV bower is sent into the batteries in order to ensure that the batteries do not get over charged. 3. What are the different types of PV systems ATL offers? Grid- Direct/ or Grid Tie: A PV system that does not have energy storage and is required to shut down if the utility is not present Grid Tie with battery backup system: A PV system that has batteries to power backed up loads during a utility outage. 4. What is the difference between mono-crystalline and poly-crystalline panels? Mono-crystalline panels have a higher output per kw rating but tend to be slightly more expensive than poly-crystalline panels; mono-crystalline wafer is black, polycrystalline wafer has a dark blue colour 5. What happens when the sun doesn t shine? 2

3 A Solar PV system produces electricity during cloudy weather and periods of reduced sunlight during winter months, although the total power per day will be reduced. 6. What brand PV Panels does ATL represent? We use only the highest-quality and best efficiency rated panels including Panasonic, Sharp, Canadian Solar and Yingli. We will constantly be monitoring suitable panels to ensure we provide the most effective systems for our customers. 7. What is the maintenance requirement for Solar PV Panels? Solar photovoltaic panels require little maintenance. This is due to the fact that there are no moving parts. It is, however, important to place panels where they will remain clear of shade and debris. Thus you will have to wipe them off if too much dust or leaves fall on them. 8. Will my solar electric system operate when there is a loss of Power from JPSCo? For Grid Tie/ Direct system: For safety reasons, the solar electric system must stop producing power when the electric grid is not supplying power. When power is available, the inverter will automatically resume supplying power from the solar panels. Battery backup systems are available and allow you to continue producing and using electricity from your solar array during a power outage. 9. Can I use a solar PV system to make hot water or to heat my house/office? It is far better to use a Solar Water Heater (SWH) to utilize thermal solar energy for water heating. A SHW system uses collectors that are connected to a (hot water) storage tank and produce hot water with a high efficiency. Solar PV electric systems convert sunlight to electricity, this electricity can be used to power an electric water heater, however this is a more expensive option. 10. How much power does a PV System store? A PV panel generates, but does not store power. In order to store power generated by a PV panel, then the system will have to be fitted with storage batteries. The amount of batteries required will be determined by the total amount of energy needed to by the household usually expressed in amp/hrs or kilowatt hrs. 11. Do I need battery backup for my system? 3

4 Probably not a backup battery bank can add as much as 25% in cost to a residential solar PV system. It's not necessarily more efficient either a same sized solar array will yield about 7 10% less energy if it's battery-tied than its grid-tied counterpart. Though you will remain tethered to JPS grid, you will not have to worry about not generating enough power. You also gain the advantage of offsetting rising utility costs. Most solar photovoltaic experts do not recommend adding a backup battery system unless there is concern about a long utility outage or the residence is in a remote location 12. How many solar panels do I need to run my home? The size of your solar system depends on a number of factors: How much electricity your home uses Angle, pitch, and direction of your roof Unobstructed roof space that is available In general, your solar system will not be designed to offset 100% of your electricity needs. This is because it makes more financial sense to get some of your electricity from solar energy and the rest from your utility company (i.e. in the daytime, solar electricity is bountiful but utility electric rates may be at their peak; at night, your system won't produce any solar energy, but you can use cheaper, off-peak electricity from the utility company). A typical system size can range anywhere between 10 to 20 panels, though many systems are smaller or larger. 13. Should I consider a ground mounted solar system? If your roof isn t optimal for solar and you have ground space, you might choose a ground mounted solar system. People commonly choose ground mounted systems if the roof doesn t work (faces the wrong direction, made of the wrong materials, etc.) or if they have a lot of space on their property. 14. How much does a PV system cost? The total cost of a PV system includes the PV system and installation. Your PV system's cost will depend on a number of technical factors, including average and peak power needs, panel and inverter efficiency, roof orientation and shading. Industry standard is anywhere from US$3.00/watt to US$5.00/watt on average. 15. Does the installation of a PV system increase the asset value of my home? 4

5 Substitution of renewable energy systems for purchased utility services will raise the value of your property. 16. How long will my solar PV modules last? Most photovoltaic module manufacturers warranty their modules for power production for 20 to 25 years. 17. Is a PV system hurricane proof? PV systems should be designed to comply with local building codes. Attachments to the roof are made by deep bolting to the rafters. System designers prepare the plans to ensure that PV panel will have the ability to withstand hurricane winds of a certain magnitude 18. How much space will I need on my roof or in my yard for a solar PV system? General rule of thumb: In bright sunlight, a square foot of a conventional photovoltaic panel will yield 10 watts of power. Each 1,000 watts (1 Kilowatt) of solar modules occupies about 100 square feet and produces about 2,190 kwhrs per year. A 5,000 watt (5 Kilowatt) system needs an area of 20 feet by 25 feet (500 square feet) and a commercial 50 KW system needs an area of about 5,000 square feet. 19. Can I add more solar panels to my system later? Adding solar panels is possible but can be complicated. Inverters and solar panels are designed to fit together like puzzle pieces. Because there's an ideal number of solar panels that should be hooked up to a specific inverter. It s better to size your system correctly the first time, which is why your solar installer will make sure they understand your current usage and any reasons that your usage might change in the near future. 20. What is a kwh? A kwh is kilo watt hour which is the standard used in all electricity bills as a unit. All electrical appliances have a rating in watts or kilowatts; an appliance rated at 1kW, will consume 1kWh (1 unit) for every hour it is on. 21. How many solar panels do I need for an electric solar power system? The size of the photovoltaic system is correlated to your home's energy-use needs, available space for a system, and overall costs for the system components and installation. 5

6 22. Do I need to be concerned with the condition of my existing roof? A PV system can be installed on any roof in good condition. Typically, asphalt shingles are easiest to work with, while tile roofs are the most difficult. If your roof is older and needs to be replaced in the very near future, you may want to replace it at the time the PV system is installed to avoid the future cost of removing and reinstalling your PV system. 23. How does shade affect my PV system? A site visit by one of our trained Engineers will be best in advising on this. 24. I m concerned about the appearance of the panels on my roof. PV panels and supports that are complementary to the roof color and architecture are available. The key to a good looking installation is a balance between the shape of the solar module field and the shape of the roof surface that supports the system. Energy by Choice will recommend the system that offers the best balance of function and style that fits your budget. 25. How do I know if solar panels will work on my home? Take a look at the position of your home on its lot and particularly your roof. Ask the following questions: Is there good southern exposure? Orienting solar panels to the south maximizes the effectiveness of energy collection. Is the exposure free of trees or buildings that could shade the panels or drop debris on them? Shading photovoltaic panels dramatically reduces their effectiveness. What is the pitch of your roof? Most roofs, from flat to 60-degrees can accommodate photovoltaic panels. 26. How long will it take to install a solar power system in my home? Planning, configuring, and doing any custom ordering for your solar energy system can take up to a few weeks. However, the installation process itself can typically be completed in only a few days time, in many cases even less. 27. What components do I need to install a grid-tied solar electric system? You will need: 1. Photovoltaic array to capture the sun's energy 6

7 2. An inverter to convert the direct current (DC) produced from the photovoltaic cells into alternating current (AC) used by your home 3. A meter, that can record both the electricity produced from your home's power system as well as any power you may use off the grid. These are the basic system components that are required to be connected through a series of wiring. The photovoltaic panels are secured to your roof with panel mounts or are installed on poles that can be adjusted for sun angle 28. How do I roughly size a system for a customer? First, you take your kwh/month usage and divide that by 30 to get your kwh/day. e.g. 1,000 / 30 = 33.3 kwh/day Then you divide this by the number of solar window in JA which is 6 e.g / 6 = 5.5 kw Last you need to adjust for real world inefficiencies. A good rule of thumb is to suppose approximately 75% - 80% inefficiencies. So increase your system a little. e.g. 5.5 kw / 0.75 = 7.4 kw. This is a fairly large residential system, but you can reasonably expect it to cover 100% of your customer s electricity needs if you use 1,000 kwh per month. 7

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