Uncle Bobs Tips: Generator Guide

Solar Power Generators

If you are homeowner looking for a clean and noise-free energy source, to protect yourself from electric rate volatility, or if you simply require additional backup power, solar power generators are a wise choice.

If you are homeowner looking for a clean and noise-free energy source, to protect yourself from electric rate volatility, or if you simply require additional backup power, solar power generators are a wise choice. With solar power, you not only contribute to a cleaner planet for the future, but you also provide energy independence for you and your family.

In recent years, the affordability, reliability and the environmental impact of utility company supplied power has come into question. As a result, many States as well as consumers are seeking alternatives to traditional power generation. One of the most viable alternatives can found in solar power generators.

Photovoltaic (PV) electric systems (or solar electric systems) use the sun's energy to make electricity. PV stands for photovoltaic. Photo = Light and Voltaic = Electricity. A solar cell converts light to electricity. A solar cell is made of silicon, and when light (sun) strikes the surface of a solar cell some of it is absorbed into the silicon. This light energy bumps the electrons loose and causes energy to flow. By packaging approximately 36 solar cells together a solar panel or a solar module is created. When you have more then one solar panel you create a solar array.

There are four major components to solar (PV) electric systems: solar panels, charge controllers, batteries and inverters. The solar panel is the basic building block of the system, acting as a battery charger. Several solar modules wired together create a solar array. The size of the solar array determines the amount of power or energy that will be produced. Your location is also a factor in the amount of energy produced. If you live in Florida, Southern California, or Texas you will produce more than if you live in Oregon, Maine or Maryland. In general the closer to the equator you live, your system will produce a larger amount of energy.

Batteries are the energy storage units for your system. Without batteries there is no way to store the energy your solar panels produce during the day. Typically, loads receive their power from the batteries instead of directly from the output of a solar panel as a solar panel produces a high voltage that will damage electronics if loads were powered directly. Charge controllers prevent the solar panel or array from overcharging your battery. There is, however, one application for solar panels directly powering a load: water pumping. Instead of storing energy, you store water. This way you can pump during the day and have water all night.

The last major component is the Inverter. The inverter converts the DC energy stored in your batteries and turns it into the AC power you use in your home. Inverters are rated by wattage and the quality of their output. Finally, minor components such as wire, disconnects, circuit breakers, and fuses are also needed for a complete solar power system.

Solar power generators are installed on rooftops or in the yard and vary in size. Solar power generators cost about $8,000 per 1,000 watts for contractor-installed systems. Solar electrical systems are compatible with many architectural styles, and are easy to install and maintain. A PV system can also reduce or eliminate the amount of electricity you purchase from your electric service provider, lowering your electricity bill. Solar power also helps the community by reducing the load on the utility grid.

For business and government facilities, solar power generators are available as Commercial Roof systems, Ground Systems for large open areas, Canopy systems for parking areas and walkways, as well as Building Integrated PV systems.

Finally, for remote and rural communities that have little chance of being connected to an electric grid, solar power generators offer a lifeline. The portability and simplicity of solar electricity supply make it a natural choice for rural community support - powering local hospitals, lighting, medicine, fridges and fresh water pumps. Increasingly, the world's major telecommunications companies are turning to solar (photovoltaic) electricity as the most practical and accepted technology for remote applications.

To bring solar power into your home, your house must have clear, unobstructed access to the sun. Buildings, trees or other vegetation should not shade the PV placement area, and south-facing awnings and roofs are best. To meet the needs of a typical household, a solar power generator typically uses between 300 to 600 square feet. As a rule of thumb, 100 square feet of PV area produces 1 kilowatt of electricity.


Environmentally Friendly:
Solar power is a reliable, silent, renewable energy source that does not create any pollution to make electricity. A typical residential PV system produces up to 3,600 kW hours of electricity per year. In contrast, to produce the same amount of electricity, a utility company would have to burn 3.7 tons of coal, thereby releasing 10,000 pounds of green house gases into the atmosphere.

Tax Benefits and Rebates:
Some States currently offer a property tax exemption for solar and wind energy systems as well as cash rebates on eligible renewable energy electric-generating systems.

Net Metering:
Net Metering refers to the measured difference between the electricity you buy from your utility company and the electricity you generate using your PV system. An in-house display meter helps you understand how your system is working. Along with other useful information, it shows how much of your electricity demand is being met by your solar system's production. If you generate more electricity than you use, your electric meter spins backward. This will reduce or possibly even eliminate your electric bill!

Enhance Your Home's Resale Value:
Installing solar power technology is likely to build home equity and even improve resale value.

Optional services for Financing:
While a solar system on your home may lower your electric bill in the long term, unfortunately the initial layout of funds to purchase the system can be high and getting connected to solar power is often not viable without government grants. Today, through State and Federal incentives aimed at leveling the playing field for solar energy, (i.e. programs such as the Renewable Energy Finance Program in California), some customers are able to eliminate their dependence on the electric utility, enhance their homes through state-of-the-art solar technology, and do something beneficial for the environment by meeting their energy needs with a solar power generator system.

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