Solar Energy 101: PV Basics
A Grid-Tie Solar Electric System consists of multiple solar electric panels that make up an array that is connected to an inverter / micro-inverters which convert the DC electricity into AC electricity. The electricity is fed from the inverter to a back fed circuit breaker in your electric service panel. When the system is making more electricity than the home or business is using, the excess is fed back into the electric grid through the electric meter that the home’s electric system is connected to. This type of system is the most common type of solar electric system. Since these systems are connected to the electric grid, it is not necessary to produce 100% of your electricity through solar alone, and excess production can be sold back to the utility company. Monitoring equipment can be installed that shows in detail the amount of solar electric generation that is taking place. More information on net metering (how the system works with your utility company) can be found here.
A Stand Alone / Off-Grid Solar Electric System consists of a solar array (a collection of PV solar panels) that is connected to an inverter, a transfer switch, a charge controller, and a battery bank. The charge controller charges the battery bank that feeds the inverter with DC electricity that is converted to AC electricity that is supplied to electric circuits. There may be additional DC circuits that are fed directly through the batteries and charge control. This electric system is not connected to the electric grid. These systems are typically seen in remote locations without utility service or stand-alone lighting. Battery backup systems are in general a more expensive option. These systems depend on producing 100% of the energy needs either immediately or as excess that is stored in the battery system until needed (usually at night time or during peak hours in daytime). Monitoring equipment has to be used in conjunction with these systems to ensure that usage is kept below output / battery storage.
A Solar Electric Grid-Tie / Battery Backup System is a combination of the two previous systems. During daylight hours, the solar electric array charges the batteries and supplies power to a special dedicated load electric service panel. Any excess power is fed to the grid. In the event of a grid failure / outage, the system disconnects from the grid and the solar array charges the batteries which supply power to the inverter to power the loads in the dedicated load service panel. When the grid is down, only the loads in the dedicated load panel are powered, not the entire home. Critical loads are typically refrigerator, stove, fans, some lighting, and possibly the washing machine.
Prices on solar electric systems are more affordable than ever. The 30% Federal Tax Credit (through 12-31-2016) on the total purchase price of a solar electric system, as well as a few utility incentives, have made solar power more affordable than ever. The average life of a solar electric system is 25+ years, signifying this as a wise and lasting investment. If you had an average electric bill of $250 per month, over those same 25 years, you would be paying the utility company $75,000 for something that you do not own, has no re-sale value at the end of those 25 years, and does not increase your home’s value in any manner. Universal Solar offers on-site energy evaluations as a free service for Central Florida customers of FPL, Duke, OUC, KUA, TECO and SECO utility companies, to help homeowners determine how to reduce their energy bills. See how affordable solar electric systems can be.
What are Universal Solar’s PV Qualifications?
Each solar electric system that we design has to pass rigorous FSEC (Florida Solar Energy Center) certification, where they evaluate the overall design (panel brand, panel output, wires, inverter, over-circuit protection, interconnection method, battery-backup [if applicable], etc.) and balance of system components. This ensures that your system has the integrity to perform as intended and that you are receiving a quality system that will last for decades.
Due to the many years of training needed to become proficient in the design of solar electric systems, the best solar professionals will be seek voluntary certification as a NABCEP PV Installation Professional. This certification is North America’s only renewable energy personnel certification that has been ANSI accredited to the internationally recognized ISO/IEC 17024 standard. NABCEP certification was designed to provide a national set of standards for PV installation and design practices. Universal Solar has 2 in-house NABCEP PV Installation Professionals: Nicholas Arceneaux & Christopher Maingot