How Solar Works
1) Solar Panels – Solar panels, also referred to as solar modules, are usually installed on your roof, but can be installed on ground-mounted structures as well. Solar panels are made up of silicon-based photovoltaic (PV) cells, which convert sunlight into direct current (DC) power. An arrangement of several interconnected panels is referred to as a solar array. Built with tempered glass and anodized aluminum, solar panels are entirely weatherproof and highly resistant to corrosion. They are engineered to have a useful production life of well over 30 years and carry warranties extending to 25 years.
2) DC/AC Inverter – The DC power from the solar array flows to an inverter, where it is converted into alternating current (AC) power, the exact same type of energy which flows to your home from the grid utility. Not only is the inverter transforming DC energy to AC energy for your home to use, but it is also the ‘brains of the operation’. It is constantly monitoring the grid and balancing the voltage and amperage of the energy produced by the solar array so as to yield the most possible energy. The inverter also automatically turns your solar system on in the morning and off at night.
3) Electrical Panel – The AC electricity output from the solar inverter is sent to the home’s electrical panel, often called a circuit breaker box. The solar energy is back-fed into the home’s existing AC electrical system using the same sort of circuit breakers which are currently in your panel to extract energy for your home’s lights and appliances. During the daytime, your home always first uses the electricity produced by the solar system; whatever else is needed is drawn from the grid.
4) Utility Meter – When you add solar, your existing utility meter gets reprogrammed by the Utility to become a Net Meter. The only difference is that a Net Meter measures the energy coming from and going to the grid (from your solar system over-production). When your solar system produces more power than your home needs at that moment, the excess energy is forced back out to the grid, your meter literally spins backwards and you accumulate financial credit for the value of the energy you ‘sell back’. You then use this financial credit when you purchase energy from the utility at night. This cycle repeats daily.
5) Utility Grid – When you add solar, your home remains connected to the utility grid, as it always has. Your solar system doesn’t have batteries to store energy. In essence, the grid is your energy storage, as it is always there to supply you with the balance of energy your home requires, after you use that provided by your solar system.