Solar 101

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Solar 101

Solar can often be confusing, but let's take a look at how it works! The SolarSMART team thought you'd like a basic Solar 101. First, some vocabulary:

Solar array - Multiple solar panels in a single installation.

Solar panels - These are the actual physical parts that are mounted on your roof or elsewhere. These panels are made of solar cells.

Solar cells - These are the sections of a solar panel that make electricity from the sun.

Inverter - Solar panels generate direct current (DC) electricity; most electricity consumers need alternating current (AC) electricity to power their buildings. The inverter’s function is to turn the electricity from DC to AC. AC current is safer to use and can also be transformed easliy to go to less powerful devices. 

Photovoltaic - Something that produces voltage when exposed to radiant energy, like the sun.

Kilowatt-hours (kWh) – the number of kilowatts produced or used per hour. You can see this unit on your monthly power bill to see how much power you’re currently using.

Basic Steps in Solar Energy Generation

  1. Photovoltaic solar panels installed on your roof convert sunlight into a DC (direct current) electrical current.
  2. A power inverter intercepts the DC electrical current and converts it to an AC (alternating current) electrical current. 
  3. Your home’s solar meter will keep track of the energy you produce and use in your home.
  4. Any extra electricity (kwh) generated from your home solar system is sent back into the power grid giving you credits to use during on-peak times or on days when you use more electricity than your panels produce. 


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