How does solar work?
A solar cell is made up of two layers of silicon that are treated to let electricity flow through them when exposed to sunlight. One layer is positively charged, the other negatively charged.
As photons enter the layers, they give up their energy to the atoms in the silicon in the form of electrons. When photons hit the layers of silicon, electrons pass through the junction between the positive and negative layers, generating electric current.
How much does solar cost?
The cost of a solar installation will vary depending on the size of the system, your location, and whether you are residential, commercial, cooperative, or non-profit/public entity. We encourage you to contact us today to get a personalized quote.
Does solar work on cloudy days?
Yes – it does still work.
While clouds do reduce the production of solar panels while they are directly in the way. Clouds come and go quickly. Photovoltaic (PV) cells will convert any kind of sunlight—direct, diffuse, and reflected—into energy. While it’s true that PV cells have the highest output with direct sunlight, that doesn’t mean they simply stop providing value when the clouds come rolling through. Even at a fraction of peak production, a solar installation is still adding value to an energy portfolio. It’s important to keep in mind that clouds come and go but a solar installation’s value builds year after year. Neither the peaks nor the valleys are representative of the average added value.
Cooler weather often associated with cloudy weather can actually improve the efficiency of a solar array. In nearly all technology, heated circuits operate far less efficiently than cooled circuits, and the same applies to PV cells. While a solar array in a hot, arid location may receive more direct sunlight, an array in a more temperate location—even with higher average cloud cover—might outperform the arid installation simply because what sunlight it gets is converted more efficiently. On top of that, an occasional rain effectively washes solar panels and helps prevent soiling which would otherwise drastically impact production. In fact, in arid zones there are entire micro-industries devoted to simply cleaning solar panels because of the lack of rain.
What is net metering?
Net metering is a billing mechanism that credits solar power owners for the electricity they add to the grid. For example, if a residential customer has a PV system on the home’s rooftop, it may generate more electricity than the home uses during daylight hours. If the home is net-metered, the electricity meter will run backward to provide a credit against what electricity is consumed at night or other periods when the home’s electricity use exceeds the system’s output. Customers are only billed for their “net” energy use.
Investor-owned utilities (IOU) such as Alliant Energy and Mid-American Energy in Iowa are mandated by the Iowa Utilities Board to offer net metering. Rural Electric Co-Ops and Municipal utilities do not fall under the same IUB mandates so their policies vary from utility to utility.
Can I use solar to go off the grid?
Yes, provided you install battery-backup systems to provide power when your demands exceed your production, such as at night. However, this is not recommended for typical homes for several reasons.
- First, off-grid systems add cost, extending your payback period.
- Second, you may not be eligible for some incentives if you do not connect your system to your utility.
- Lastly, staying connected to the grid ensures you will rarely be without power.
These caveats aside, going off the grid with solar does make sense in select situations. Remote cabins or locations where power is simply not available from a utility provider, for example, are common off-grid locations for solar power.
Can I use solar to prevent a power outage?
Yes, in theory. There are many steps that have to be done in order to ensure this continues such as installing inverters, battery backups, and more. If you are interested, let us know and we would be happy to tell you more!
What warranties come with your solar panels?
Solar modules are typically warranted to produce 80% of their original capacity when they are 25 years old. Our top tier panels are warranted up to 86% at year 30! Different manufacturers warrant the production degradation on different schedules.
The warranties do not cover incidental damage such as a tree falling on the roof where the panels are located — that would be covered by property insurance.
Can my electric bill be $0?
The amount you pay for electricity (kWh) can be zero! Through net metering, your system can produce enough power during the day to ensure you’re covered when you are drawing from the grid at night or on cloudy days. However, there is still a minimal connection fee, called a meter fee, to remain connected to the electrical grid. The meter fee typically costs between $10-$30/month.
How does snow affect solar panels?
While snow will decrease production while it is on your panels, it should not damage your system when designed and installed properly. Given the angle of the panels and their tendency to produce some heat, the snow will fall off your panels faster than it would fall off your roof, quickly returning your system to its full potential. In fact, snow on the ground can actually increase the output of your panels due to reflected sunlight.