Frequently Asked Question
|A Non-Technical Introduction to Solar
There are four major components to solar electric systems; Solar
Charge Controllers, Batteries and Inverters.All of these components are
necessary to have a functioning Solar Electric (PV) system.The solar
is the basic building block of the system.This is your battery charger.
If you have several solar modules wired together you have created a
array. The size of the solar array determines the amount of power or
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
amount of energy. Do you want to know how much power can be produced in
you area. Check out our FAQ question "How much power will a solar
produce at my location?" Charge controllers come in many different
and types.They all basically do the same thing. The charge controller
the solar panel or array from overcharging your battery. Batteries are
the energy storage for your system. Without batteries there is no way
store the energy your solar panels produce during the day. Typically
receive their power from batteries instead of directly from the output
of a solar panel. A solar panel produces a high voltage that will
electronics if loads are powered directly. A common application for
panels directly powering a load is water pumping. Instead of storing
you store water. This way you can pump during the day and have water
night. Batteries will provide you with the energy you need at night.The
last major component is the Inverter. The inverter converts the DC
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.
can use a 50 watt inverter that plugs into your car 12 volt outlet to
a computer, or you could have a 4000 to 11,000 watt inverter system
powers your home. These major components can be put together in many
ways. Minor components like wire, disconnects,circuit breakers, and
are also needed for a complete system. Now that you know what the major
components are, let me introduce you to you how these different
are used in systems…….
|Stand Alone or "Cabin" Systems
Solar---Charge Controller---Battery---DC Loads
A Stand Alone solar system is just as it sounds.
It is not connected
to the utility or other types of charging sources.This type of system
used when utility power is not present and is to costly to bring in
the nearest pole. If you have a shed set off from the house, a cabin in
the mountains, or a summer home by the lake that is without power this
type of system can often be very cost effective. When compared to bring
in the power lines the initial cost can be less. Some of the pros of
type of system are: The lack off reliance on the utility. Potential
savings. Some of the cons of this type of system are: Even thought
maybe a cost savings over running utility line, there can be a high
cost. You have to know your loads and have the system designed
since you don’t have utility power for backup.
|Utility Tied System
This system is the newest addition to our site.
The system utilizes
an inverter that does not require batteries. During the day, the power
generated is fed back into the utility. If you are producing more power
then you are using your meter can even spin backwards. Due to the
of the system, it has the lowest cost per watt. The downfall of this
is that when the utility grid fails the system will shut down.
|Battery Backup System
This is a system that does not involve solar
power. This system utilizing
an inverter that has a built in battery charger. It will charges
and hold them at 100% waiting for a power outage or a brownout. Your
loads will never see the power outage. Computers, home health
and lights will continue to operate when the utility grid fails. This
a system that is great for areas where power is lost for short periods
of time. The limit on this system is the amount of battery capacity
you have. The larger the batteries the longer your run time will be.
|Utility Tied Battery Backup System with Solar
This system operates on the same principal as the
Battery Backup System.
The difference is the addition of solar.The solar is used to charge
battery bank. When the batteries are full the excess power is fed back
into the grid. In the event of an outage, your critical loads are
by the system, and the solar panels continue to charge the batteries.
benefit of this system is that you have the ability to sell power back
and have the piece of mind that you critical loads will continue to
The drawback is the cost per watt is higher then a Utility Tied System.
This introduction was featured in out March 2001