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Investing in Photovoltaic Technology:

 

Saving money with Solar Energy:

 

Solar Energy Consumer Information Websites:

 

Types of Photovoltaic Systems:

 

Off-Grid Home

 

Grid-Tied Home with Storage Battery

 

Grid-Tied Home without Storage Battery

 

Stand Alone (remote area electric supply)

 

 

 

 

Investing in Photovoltaic Technology:

Solar Energy is an extremely useful power source with significant benefits and a few drawbacks.  One possible drawback is that solar energy installations are long term investments, and can take up to 20 years to recoup the installation costs through solar electricity savings.  Most photovoltaic array installations require a significant up front investment.  The price is dependent on the size and type of installation an owner decides to purchase, the types of installations are described below.  There are three primary types of installations the Off-Grid, Grid-Tied with Battery back-up, and Grid-Tied without back-up.  One benefit of a solar energy installation is that the photovoltaic panels do not have any moving parts that require maintenance.  Another benefit of having a Grid-Tied with back-up or Off-Grid home is that in case of a large outage the power for your home will not be out.  The Grid-Tied system pays back the owner when more energy is created than is used, such as during a summer vacation when your home is empty and the sun is shining for 5 hours or more on your system any energy created by your system will be sold to the power company, so you may get a check from the power company when you return from vacation.  In the coming years it is a good bet that energy prices will continue to increase, as they do the value of the energy obtained through PV usage will increase as well.  The greatest investment benefit is that photovoltaic systems do not depreciate over time, which means that once you install the array it is added value to your house and when your house is sold you will be able to recoup the complete invest cost.  For more information on what it means for solar energy to be an investment please click here to view the Maine Solar Home website.

 

Saving money with Solar Energy:

There are other ways, besides building a large array, to use PV technology to save money around your house. PV technology has much to offer on the less expensive end of the consumer market. Lights can be purchased for a walkway that are solar powered and can be put in the ground without having to dig trenches and run wiring through your yard, solar water heaters can be purchased as well and can be used for your house or pool. There are many other products out there as well, such as battery chargers, pool water ionizers and security lights that are all powered by solar energy. By using these simple devices one can automatically save money from their electric bill and the cost is the basic cost of the product.

 

Solar Energy Consumer Information Websites:

Connecticut Clean Energy Fund

U.S. Department of Energy Consumer Information
Home Power (Journal of Home-Made Power)
People's Action for Clean Energy, Inc.
Solar Electric Power Association
Alliance to Save Energy

 

Types of Systems:

 

Off-Grid Home

An off-grid home has its own complete, self-contained power generating station. It is independent of utility power lines (the "grid"), and all power needed by the home is produced on-site. Because they are isolated from any grid support, off-grid systems require careful matching of system capacity, energy storage capability, and system loads.

A typical off-grid home will have a solar array, a battery bank, an inverter, and a number of other components needed for system control, monitoring, and safety. Off-grid home systems often include additional energy sources for use during extended periods of cloudy weather. These may include renewable sources such as a windmill or hydroelectric generator or a fossil fuel generator .

Off-grid system costs will vary widely. Small systems designed to meet very limited energy needs (for example a small cabin lighting or small appliance system) can be installed for as little as $1,500. Larger systems, with the capacity to run conventional loads in an energy efficient home, can cost $15,000 or more.

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Grid-Tied with Storage Battery

Grid tied homes are connected to the electric utility lines. This allows the home to utilize and/or store solar electricity when the sun is shining and to use utility power when the sun is not out. In the event of a utility power failure, this type of system can automatically switch over to battery power. While the utility power is out, this house functions as an off-grid home. When the power comes back on, the system automatically switches back to using a combination of solar and grid-power. The home-owner may never even know there has been a power failure!

The battery system may be sized to provide enough power only for priority emergency uses, or for more typical consumption patterns. Of course, increasing the storage and backup capacity of the system tends to increase the price. When batteries are fully charged, and the sun is shining, the homeowner can take advantage of net metering and sell power back to the utility company at retail rates. Typically, you can expect costs for medium household sized systems (2 kiloWatt to 4 kiloWatt) with battery storage backup to be in the $20,000 to $40,000 range.

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Grid-Tied without Storage Battery

Grid tied homes are connected to the electric utility lines. This allows the home to utilize and/or store solar electricity when the sun is shining and to use utility power when the sun is not out. A grid-tied system is designed so that the electric needs of the house are first met by whatever electricity is generated by the PV system and utility electricity makes up any difference. At times when the solar panels are generating more power than is being consumed, the excess power is sent back through the electric company's power lines, spinning the utility meter backwards as it does.

As there is no method of storing energy with this type of system, when utility power fails there is no back up power and the house is without electricity. It is not possible to directly use the power from the PV array when grid-power fails. 

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Stand Alone

Stand-alone systems are designed for specific applications, typically in areas where grid power is not readily accessible. These applications include electric fences, human or livestock water systems, boats, traffic safety signs, telecommunications, and parking lot lighting. For most of these applications, packaged systems are available. These systems contain all of the components necessary for independent operation under a variety of environmental conditions.

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