Some of the largest potentials for energy independence for the United States is solar power. It’s estimated that there’s 1 terawatt of energy just waiting to be tapped into on US rooftops!
But how and where do you get started with solar panel installation? What goes into it and what do you need to start making electricity? Keep reading to find out!
What Goes Into Solar Panel Installation?
The benefits of solar are many, so the question of how an installation goes is a common one. There are three parts of a solar power system that make it work. They are the:
- Solar panel
- Power inverter
- Backup power
Without having all three components, you won’t get any power at all or not enough at the times you need it most.
Type of Solar Panels
Solar panels are primarily made of silicon. There are three types of solar panels common in residential solar power systems.
- Monocrystalline silicon
- Polycrystalline silicon
Thin-film panels are generally flexible and can be further broken down into:
- Copper indium gallium selenide or CIGS
- Cadmium telluride or CdTe
- Amorphous silicon or a-Si
They each have their advantages.
For example, thin-film cells (TFCs) have the lowest installation costs and also the lowest lifespan and efficiency. That means they need more space. Monocrystalline silicon is difficult to make, has high efficiency, lasts a long time, but is very expensive.
Polycrystalline silicon is in the middle.
Deciding on the type of your solar panel determines what kind of mounting method you’ll be using.
Inverting Your Power
Power inversion is a critical part of a solar power system. Solar energy is harvested as DC or direct current energy and needs to transform into alternating current or AC.
Power inverters do this for you. Properly sized to your system you can harvest all that your panels have to give. Residential systems in the USA are generally between 1.13 and 1.30 inversion ratio of DC to AC.
From the lowest to highest performance there are string inverters, power optimizers, and microinverters. String inverters link all the panels together, but the different voltages reduce the efficiency of inversion.
Power optimizers and microinverters are both found on the roof, integrated into the panel, or nearby. Power optimizers “clean” the DC electricity to a preset voltage so there is no differential before being sent to a central inverter.
Microinverters, on the other hand, convert DC to AC at the source and send AC electricity into the home through the electric panel.
Choosing how to back up your solar energy system is important for any time of the day where your system isn’t producing peak power. Do you use a battery, a generator, or are you tied to the grid?
Grid-tie systems are still tied to the grid and you send energy credits to the utilities. Those credits are used for times you need electricity back, generally the nighttime.
Off-grid means that you are self-sufficient. You produce and store electricity for yourself, having cut ties completely with the grid. In this option, you need generators or batteries to supply electricity.
You can have a battery and send electricity back to the grid as well.
Did You Get All That?
Solar panel installation and making a new solar power system is a complex endeavor best undertaken along with a professional. You can give valuable input to your installer, but only if you have the basic knowledge of how it works. Now that you know, you’re ready to start installing.
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