This article highlights those important facts about solar panels you must know before buying them. If you are about to make an important decision to install solar panels at your home, be sure to read this.
Commercial solar panels cost at least $20,000 (usually much more than this) and you need to wait at least 12 years before your investment pays back. Of course the actual price and payback period depends on how much electricity you require and the amount of sunshine at your location.
Even though solar panels seem expensive, owning them can help your finances in the long run. Beyond its payback period, solar panels are essentially free. Thus you are actually using free electricity from that point on. If oil price continues to rise (quite certainly), the savings you realize will only become greater.
On top of that, your property value appreciates the moment you install solar panels on your roof.
Installing PV panels at home or office may be one of the best few decisions in your life. If you buy the correct solar energy system, it’ll reward you handsomely in time to come.
Why Solar Panels?
Solar panels convert solar energy into electricity. Since the sun will not burn out in the next few billion years, this is a perpetual source of energy we can use. Many solar panels can operate for up to 30 years. Thus they provide us with a long lasting source of electricity.
Solar panels are suitable for providing electricity in remote places that are far away from the main electricity grid. If your home is situated in such places, solar electricity may be the cheapest and most convenient source of power for you.
PV panels do not require much maintenance. In fact all they need is an occasional jet of water for 5 to 10 minutes. This helps to wash away the dirt and dust that accumulates on the glass panel after months and months of use. Besides this, no other regular maintenance is needed.
Solar power does not pollute. It neither gives off toxic nor foul-smelling gases. There is no way solar panels can harm your health and well-being when it generates electricity. In fact, it doesn’t even produce any noise. Thus solar panels do only good and no harm.
The only time when pollution is involved is when solar panels are being produced. Energy is needed at production lines, and this likely comes from burning fossil fuel. Fortunately it does not take long to manufacture each PV panel. Thus its indirect damage to the environment is negligible as compared to its advantages.
For many homeowners, using solar electricity is a means to hedge against the rising cost of fuel. It is quite likely that oil price will double again after 15 or 20 years…who knows. But the price of solar panels keeps dropping. Today, you can get solar panels for as low as $3 per watt. And this (one-time cost) is all you have to pay for the next few decades. What a good deal.
Different Types of Solar Panels
Solar panels are made from single crystal (monocrystalline) wafers, polycrystalline wafers or by depositing photovoltaic material onto thin films.
Monocrystalline solar cells are made by cutting single crystal wafers into 1/3 to 1/2 millimeter slices. This is a costly process. The silicon used must be of very high purity and must have an almost perfect crystalline structure. This makes the final product expensive. Therefore even though monocrystalline solar cells have the highest yield, they are not as popular.
Polycrystalline wafers are made by pouring molten silicon into a mould and allowing it to set. Then they are cut into thin slices, similar to how monocrystalline wafers are made. Since polycrystalline wafers do not require very high purity silicon or a near perfect crystalline structure, they are cheaper to produce. However it produces less electricity than monocrystalline cells under the same illumination per square foot.
Yet polycrystalline solar panels are very popular. Unlike monocrystalline solar cells, polycrystalline cells can fill the solar panel with more photovoltaic material (due to its shape). This allows it to produce almost as much electricity per square foot as monocrystalline solar panels. Hence it is more cost effective to use polycrystalline solar panels.
Amorphous silicon cells are made by depositing a layer of silicon on a substrate. Amorphous silicon is just one of the product of thin-film technology. Other products include thin multicrystalline silicon, copper indium diselenide/cadmium sulphide cells, cadmium telluride/cadmium sulphide cells and gallium arsenide cells.
Among these 3 types of solar cells, thin-films produce the least amount of electricity per square foot. However they are light. Therefore they are used widely in portable applications.
In the process of manufacturing thin-film solar panels, very little silicon is wasted. This is in stark contrast to the manufacturing process of monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar cells where almost half the silicon is wasted as saw dust.
When choosing solar panels, it is important to know what type of technology is involved. More importantly, you must calculate the price you are paying per watt for the particular PV panel you chose.
A Typical Solar Power System
In a solar power system, one single solar panel is not sufficient to provide enough power for your house or office. An array of PV panels must be used in order to get the necessary amount of energy.
Other than the solar panel array, a control panel must be installed. It is used to regulate power from the panels. For an off-grid system, electricity must be stored in deep-cycle rechargeable batteries so you can use it later (usually at night). For an intertie (or grid-tied) system, this is not necessary.
Power coming from the batteries or your solar panels is in the form of direct current (DC). To run electrical appliances that use 110 VAC, you need an inverter. This device converts DC to AC power.
Even after all these are setup, you may want to consider having a backup source of power. This is important if you are not connected to the grid. One type of backup power you can consider is a diesel generator.
If you have a large solar power system, installing a solar tracker can help you recover some power that would otherwise be lost. What this device does is track the position of the sun and aligns the solar panels toward it. The increase in electricity supply can more than offset the cost of a solar tracker if your system is big enough.
You can also tap another source of renewable energy together with solar power. Wind turbines are commonly installed for residential use. The power generated by wind can charge your solar panel batteries. Instead of lining your roof with more PV panels, this is a good way to increase your electricity production.
Solar Panels Installation
Where your solar panels are sited is of utmost importance. The solar professional must help you determine the best location to install your solar panels. He must also inform you about the shading condition at the site he choose.
During installation, your solar panels will be tilted southwards. The angle of inclination depends on where you live. If solar panels are not installed properly, you may not get as much power as you expect. As a result, your solar panels may end up producing below its potential throughout its lifespan.
To improve the shade condition at the installation site, your contractor may advise you to crop some trees at your property.
When you work closely with a trusted solar professional, you can be certain he will be your best partner when it comes to providing renewable energy for your household.