Solar energy use has grown rapidly over the past decade. Costs have dropped, while new ownership and financing models allow more Americans than ever to choose solar. Solar is now available as a power choice in all fifty states. Going solar is a significant decision. By understanding the basics of solar energy, your solar options, and the right questions to ask solar professionals, you’re well positioned to make the right decisions.
How Solar Works
Today, most residential solar systems are photovoltaic (“PV”) – or solar electric – systems. This guide covers only PV systems. They generate electricity using two main hardware components:
• Panels (or modules) that convert sunlight to electricity; and
• Inverter(s) that convert(s) direct current to alternating current for use in your home
The amount of electricity (measured in kilowatt-hours, or kWh) produced by any solar system depends on two factors:
• The size (or “power rating”) of the system measured in kilowatts (kW); and
• The amount of sunlight the system receives. The amount of sunlight a solar system receives depends on
several factors, including:
• – Geographic location (e.g., Phoenix receives more sunlight on average than Seattle)
• – Orientation (e.g., roof pitch or compass direction)
• – Shading (e.g., from chimneys, trees or neighboring buildings)
Generally, Homeowners Prefer Solar Purchase Option! This Option Allows Homeowners to Take Full Advantage Out of Federal Tax Credits & Of Course Solar Power System Ownership!
Home Solar Options
Today, most Americans have options for going solar. It’s important to understand the choices available to you under state law and the policies of your electric utility, the differences among those options, and selecting the right one for you. The main options available today are bulleted here and explained further below:
• Purchase a solar system (with cash or a loan) and own both the system and all the power it produces
• Lease a system, usually for a monthly rate, and own all the power it produces
• Enter a “power purchase agreement” (PPA) to buy (in price per kWh) the electricity the system produces
You can purchase a solar system outright with cash or a loan. When you buy a system, you are the owner of the system and benefit from all the electricity it produces. You are usually responsible for system upkeep, although most residential solar systems require no to low maintenance and Solar Ray USA offers maintenance services on purchased systems. In most jurisdictions, you also are the beneficiary of any tax credits or other incentives that promote solar energy. If you sell your home, you may include the system in the sale just like any other major home component
In many markets, you can lease a solar system for a set time period. The solar company owns the system on your property and leases it to you. You benefit from using the electricity the system produces. The solar company is responsible for system upkeep. You make monthly payments to the solar company at the agreed upon rate specified in the lease for use of the system. Some solar companies will allow you to lease with no initial costs (“no money down”), but that does not mean the system is free. Some companies also give you an option to purchase the system after a certain amount of time. A lease is one type of third-party-owned (TPO) arrangement because the solar company (a third-party) owns the system.
Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)
From the consumer perspective, a PPA is very similar to a lease. Under a PPA, you pay for the actual units of electricity generated from the system, rather than leasing the system for a monthly fee regardless of how much energy it produces. In a power purchase agreement (PPA), as with a lease, the solar company owns the system on your property. Also similar to a lease, you agree to purchase the electricity produced by that system for a specified rate and agreed-upon terms specified in a contract. A PPA is also a TPO arrangement because the solar company owns the system.
Consumers are increasingly interested in pairing solar with energy storage (“solar-plus-storage”). Batteries are currently the most common energy storage product for homeowners. Energy storage is charged when power is available and releases the stored electricity when needed. You may look to install solar-plus-storage systems for backup power during a power outage, provided you choose the correct type of storage system. Or you may want storage to control your electricity generated by the solar system when connected to a utility: and your utility rate depends on the time of day; that imposes fixed charges based on your peak usage during a short period of time during the month that’s difficult to control without storage or that compensates you for any excess electricity generated by your solar system below retail rates. This can get complicated quickly, so be sure to ask your Solar Ray USA solar professional about the pros and cons of solar plus-storage in your area to make the right decision.
Taking Care of Your Solar Panels System
Because PV systems have no moving parts, regular maintenance is straightforward for a consumer. First, make sure you have enough rain each year to wash
the panels. If you live in a desert or highly dusty environment, periodic cleaning is recommended once per year with distilled water. The same is true if you are located near the ocean and receive marine mist that could leave salt deposits. Second, talk with Solar Ray USA solar consultant about whether you will need to trim nearby branches or do anything with the roof. Third, if your system has monitoring that relies on the internet, maintain internet connection and learn how to use your monitoring system.