Solar FAQs

What is a solar electrical system?

A solar electrical system is a clean, quiet, long-lasting power generator with no moving parts that produces electricity from sunlight, even on cloudy days. It is also known as a “photovoltaic” or “PV” system (photo = light; voltaic = electric power). A PV system can virtually spin your electric meter backwards, giving you solar electricity during the day, sending up to the grid anything extra that’s produced (and are credited for), and effectively delivering it back at night when you need it — thanks to bi-directional (2-way) energy metering.

What are the different types of solar electrical systems?

There are 4 types of solar electrical (PV) systems: Direct, off-grid with batteries, on-grid with batteries, and on-grid without batteries.

1. Direct PV system is simply a solar panel connected to a DC device like a solar-powered attic fan that is not connected to your building wiring or the utility grid.  The fan operates only when the sun shines.

2. Off-grid PV system with batteries is used to power millions of homes and electrical devices around the world that do not have utility power. Off-grid PV with batteries use special batteries designed to be charged and discharged for many years. The batteries in an off-grid PV system store energy to provide autonomous power at night and on cloudy days.

3. On-grid PV system with batteries operates similar to off-grid with batteries except that the battery stored energy is used to provide emergency power during grid power outages. Batteries and other parts increase PV system complexity and its cost by about 30% more than on-grid PV without batteries.

4. On-grid PV system without batteries is the most popular (and practical) urban and suburban solar solution because of its much lower initial cost, virtually maintenance and trouble-free operation, and the fact that it offsets costly and polluting grid electricity.

What is the main difference between a solar electrical system with and without batteries?

The primary differences are cost and complexity. We are all concerned about power blackouts, but utility power is reliable in most urban and suburban areas so very few people need to take on the extra expense of a system with batteries. There are exceptions though, and if your utility power is unreliable, you have 3 options. Southern View Energy can install a fossil- fueled generator in conjunction with your solar electrical (PV) system for occasional emergency power outages.  We can design and install an on-grid PV system with batteries for you that will power your “essential” electric loads (lights, refrigerator, communications, etc.) during a utility power outage. Or we can also design a separate battery and inverter system without solar electrical that will provide you with uninterruptible power for special electric loads.

Will a solar electrical system give me power during a grid power outage?

Only solar electrical (PV) systems designed with battery back-up can give you power during a grid power outage. PV systems without batteries turn off automatically during a grid power outage to prevent possible injury to workers repairing the power lines. When grid power is restored, the PV system turns back on automatically.

What happens with a solar electrical system at night?

When the sun goes down the inverter automatically switches to standby mode and you get electricity from the utility company. The next day when light strikes the solar array the inverter turns back on automatically, to provide you with PV-generated power.

What types of solar electrical systems does Southern View Energy offer?

We offer all types of solar electrical systems; with and without batteries, for on and off-grid applications.

Do solar electrical systems cause any negative effects?

No.  A solar electrical system has no moving parts, is extremely reliable, long-lasting, and requires practically no maintenance. Solar power works in conjunction with utility power and in no way adversely affects grid reliability or causes grid outages. On the contrary, solar actually improves grid stability and electricity quality. Moreover, solar modules produce more energy compared to the energy they use, which is good for the environment.  Solar electrical modules are “net energy positive” in less than 4 years, whereas grid power made from coal, gas and nuclear materials consumes non-renewable resources and every kilowatt produced by these methods pollutes the land, air and water.

Can a solar electrical system produce sufficient power to run my air conditioning, refrigerators, pool pumps and other devises that use a lot of power?

Yes. However, solar is not usually used to directly power separate circuits for specific equipment. It is far more practical for the solar electrical system to be connected to the main bus bar in your electric service panel to offset all power consumed. That way, there is no negative effect on equipment like motors that have large startup and operating current consumption.

How long will a solar electrical system last?

A well-designed and properly installed solar system can last for many decades. Solar systems installed in the 1970s are still in operation. Since solar modules have a 20-30 year power output warranty (depending on the manufacturer), you can plan on at least 25 years of steady operation. With the first silicon solar cells made by Bell Laboratories in the 1950s still in operation today, a 40-50 year lifespan expectation for today’s solar electrical systems is not unreasonable.

How much roof area does a solar electrical system require?

The south-facing roof of most homes has enough space for a solar array that can produce anywhere from 20-100% of the energy used in a home. Each 100 square feet of a solar array will produce about 1,500 watts of solar electrical power and generate an average of 7 kilowatt-hours per day.  You are not limited by roof space alone; a solar array can also be placed on the ground.

Are batteries required?

No. A grid-tied solar electrical system does not require batteries.  All excess power produced during the day is deposited into the grid, with the credits available to the owner later thanks to net metering.

Do solar electrical systems work at night and on cloudy days?

 A solar electrical system without batteries produces power from daylight.  Full sun produces full power.  On cloudy and even rainy days, power is still produced, although at a reduced rate.  Your solar system’s output is calculated based on area-specific climate data which takes into consideration changes in the weather.

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