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Solar Energy FAQ

Solar Energy FAQ

Solar energy is contained in the sun’s rays that strike the Earth each day. This energy helps make life on our planet possible by heating the Earth’s surface and providing light during the daylight hours. Energy produced by sunlight can also be harnessed to create electric power and to perform other tasks.

Photovoltaic cells are the most common method for capturing the sun’s energy and converting it into electricity. They are made from materials such as silicon and convert photons from the sun’s rays directly into electrons to produce an electric current. Photovoltaic cells are wired together to form a module, also known as a solar panel. Panels are linked together in a circuit to form an array, which is mounted on rooftops or in open spaces in a way that provides maximum exposure to the sun.

Solar energy provides clean, sustainable energy that doesn’t create pollution or emissions. 

The quality of the panels and solar cell technology directly relates to the solar panel efficiency. With respect to the cell technology, panel efficiency typically ranges from 12–21 percent. 

Photovoltaic systems are relatively simple. They consist primarily of the panels that collect the sunlight and convert it into electricity, an inverter and the wiring necessary to connect these devices into your home electric system.

Solar panels require very little maintenance. Typically, solar panels generate energy for more than 25 years. Occasionally, panels will need to be cleaned of debris and anything blocking the sun. Some components may need regular, professional inspections. 

Depending on the location and technology, solar photovoltaic system installation can range from $3,000 to $5,000 per kW.

The amount of time it will take to pay for your solar system will depend on factors such as the initial cost and efficiency of the system and the amount of sun available. To get a general idea on payback, check this solar calculator. You can obtain more specific information from your qualified solar contractor.

In addition to any purchase or lease agreements for the solar equipment and installation, an interconnection agreement with your local EMC is required to ensure a safe, reliable solar installation.  Check with your local EMC for requirements prior to installing a system. 

The amount of sun available to generate energy in your area will vary, depending on latitude (sun angle), cloud cover and a clear path to the sun. Georgia averages about 5 hours of sun per day.

You will need to consider several factors and consult a solar professional to learn if your roof is suitable for a solar installation. Some of the considerations include:  south-facing roof structure, age/condition of your roof, and trees or other structures that may cause shading. 

Sunshine is the "fuel" for your solar panels. If sunlight is blocked by clouds, trees or other structures, your solar panels will produce a very limited amount of electricity. While we cannot control the weather and cloud cover, placing your panels in areas with the most sunshine will help make your system more productive.

In Georgia, installing your panels on a south-facing roof angled about 20-30 degrees from the ground will make your panels produce the most energy. A qualified solar system installer can help you design a system that is most productive.

Typically, solar panels are under warranty to generate for around 20 to 25 years. However, some panels have performed for over 40 years.

Chances are, your solar system will not generate all the energy you need all of the time. To ensure a continuous supply of energy, it’s best to remain connected to your EMC.

If you use energy from your local electric provider to back up your solar system, you will not have electric power during an outage. Unless you have a battery backup system, an interconnected system will lose power during a power outage. This is a safety feature of UL-approved inverters and prevents “islanding,” which occurs when a solar array pushes electricity back to the grid during an outage. Islanding can be deadly for an unsuspecting lineman inspecting an unenergized line section.

Net metering is a billing mechanism whereby some utilities credit solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid. Check with your EMC to find out more about their policies regarding net metering.

Check with your EMC to learn about their specific policies regarding solar energy.

You should check with your insurance agent to see whether your policy covers solar panels on your roof or in your yard.

A federal income tax credit of 30 percent is available for homeowners who install their system prior to Jan.1, 2017. These credits are subject to limitations and eligibility requirements, so check with your tax advisor to see if you qualify.

If you are interested in using solar energy without generating it yourself, Green Power EMC and its partner EMCs sell green energy produced by solar, as well as low-impact hydroelectric, landfill gas and biomass projects. Depending on your location, you might also have the option of participating in a community-scale solar project.  

 

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