Solar Energy FAQ
The growing environmental concerns and increasing costs associated with fossil-fuel based energy is spurring interest in solar energy systems. This FAQ provides a quick overview of the technology and why it matters.
What are Solar Energy Systems?
Solar Energy Systems convert sunlight into electricity for residential and commercial use. The systems typically involve solar panels or solar modules that are installed on the roof or the grounds of a home or business facility. The panels are designed to absorb sunlight and to convert the energy of the absorbed light into DC power. This DC power is routed to an inverter which coverts it to AC power similar to the electricity transmitted by conventional utility companies. The inverter then distributes the AC power to the home or business facility.
What are the benefits of using a Solar Energy System?
Solar energy systems are based on sunlight, which is a virtually limitless, renewable source of energy. Systems based on solar energy are non-polluting, totally silent and environmentally friendly. They involve very little moving parts, and therefore require very little maintenance. Importantly, over the long run, solar power is cheaper to generate and consume than electricity generated from water, oil, coal and other perishable resources. There are few, if any recurring costs associated with solar energy systems.
Can solar energy systems be used in conjunction with utility-supplied energy?
Yes, they can. Solar energy systems can be used to offset energy supplied by a utility company. Or it can be used as the sole form of energy supply to a house or business. When it is used alongside energy from a utility company, solar energy can help reduce monthly bills and reduce dependence on utility companies. Solar energy systems are designed to function entirely independently of traditional utility infrastructure, so it does not require any connections to a power or gas grid.
What are the downsides of using Solar Energy Systems?
The biggest disadvantage with solar energy systems are the initial costs. Purchasing and installing the equipment needed to generate solar energy can be expensive and easily run into thousands of dollars. Solar panels and solar modules can also get pretty large in size and require considerable space to install.
What about weather, pollution and available sunlight? Don’t they degrade performance as well?
Yes, to a certain extent. The performance of solar energy systems can be impacted by factors such as weather and pollution, and they do not function very effectively on cloudy days or during the night. However, advances in semi-conductor technologies and manufacturing processes are resulting in new highly efficient solar energy systems that are capable of overcoming such deficiencies.
Is financial assistance available for the purchase and installation of solar energy systems?
Numerous financial incentives are available for individuals and businesses looking into installing solar energy systems for their use. The financial assistance is typically designed to help individuals meet the upfront costs associated with buying and install solar equipment. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency maintains a state by state breakdown of available incentives for solar energy systems. (http://www.dsireusa.org/) In addition to such incentives, many states also have schemes that allow utility companies to buy excess energy that might be generated by a residential solar energy system. Such net-metering schemes allow homes and businesses to accumulate an energy credit for future use and are another advantage of using solar energy systems.