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A Know-It-All’s Lexicon To Solar Energy – Know What The Pro’s Do!

Some terms that will guide you while using solar energy

Going solar can be made very easy by using tools to calculate your solar saving and comparing quotes of pre-screened solar installers. With all the terminology used in solar energy, shopping for solar can be very confusing. Below is an index of solar energy terminology to help you understand solar terms and comprehend all the available options.

Terms related to Solar Panel.

  • Azimuth: The position your roof faces. We measure azimuth in degrees, the angle between the roof of the house, and the true north is azimuth.
  • Building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV): This is also known as a solar shingle. These kinds of solar panels are usually integrated with housing roof tiles instead of placing it on the top of the housing roof.
  • Inverter: This is the part of a solar panel system that changes the electric current into a form which is usable in the home.
  • Kilowatt-hour (kWh): This is the unit for measuring electric current. In 2014, the use of electricity in the average U.S. home was at about 911kWh per month.
  • Off-grid: This is a total disconnection from the electric grid, with no means to connect to utility-generated electricity. Houses that go off grid need to produce most of the electric current on-site.
  • Photovoltaic (PV): A kind of equipment that produces an electric current from sun-lights. Solar panels are photovoltaic equipment.
  • Power rating: This is the theoretical power output that the solar panel produces in its normal conditions. The quality of the solar panel can be rated by the power rating. A lot of solar panels do not have the best possible conditions for more than a few minutes.
  • Solar panel efficiency: It shows how efficiently a solar panel converts sunlight to electric current. The efficiency of most solar panels is about 14-16 percent; the highly rated solar panels are well above 20 percent.
  • Solar-plus-storage: An industrial term used for a solar energy system that involves a battery for storing excess solar energy, unofficially known as solar batteries.
  • Temperature coefficient: This shows how well the solar panel does in high-heat states. High heat does not have a positive effect on the performance of the solar panel just like other electronics.

The Concepts of Solar Pricing and Policy

community solar
  • Community solar: This solar power plant is usually distributed to more than one household, mostly framed as another option to rooftop solar. Also called a solar garden alternatively shared renewable energy plant.
  • Federal investment tax credit (ITC): Normally known as the solar tax credit, the ITC effectively cuts the full price of your solar energy system by 30 percent with a deduction to your federal taxes. It is known as the ultimate monetary incentive for solar in the U.S.
  • Grid Parity: The level at which power produced by solar panels cost less or the same as power from common resources like natural gas. Solar is already a pattern parity in 20 states.
  • Levelized cost of energy (LCOE): This is the cost of each unit of a solar energy system. LCOE is gotten when we divide the out of pocket cost for the system by the calculated total amount of energy the system will create during its lifetime.
  • Net metering: The excess electric current generated by a solar panel is credited to you, then whenever the solar panels do not generate sufficient electricity to meet up the rate of your use. With the net metering, you can efficiently use the electric grid to “save” excess electric current for future use.
  • Property-Accessed Clean Energy (PACE): A unique kind of loan that is paid back through a yearly assessment on your tax belongings bill. PACE financing could be used to connect a solar PV system, alongside other pure energy improvements.
  • Payback period: This is the period of time it takes to pay for the solar energy investment. Seven years is the average time most homeowners are given to pay for the solar investment in the U.S.
  • Performance-based incentive (PBI): This is a monetary reward for solar that pays the homeowner based on the rate of energy generated by the solar system. It is paid based on the rate of electric current produced per kilowatt per hour. A type of PBI is known as the feed-in tariffs.
  • Power purchase agreement (PPA): A binding agreement with the solar company to connect the solar energy to the rooftop of your house, with this solar contract (PPA) you will be paying the solar company per kilowatt-hour amount for the electricity generated by the solar panels.
  • Solar lease: A signed contract by you and the solar company to install the solar panel on the roof. Using a solar lease, when you agree to the contract, you agree to pay a monthly fee to rent the system in exchange for the electric current the solar system gives out.
  • Solar lease escalator: A part of a contract of most leases and PPAs that result in increment or raise in payment rates by a fixed amount per year. A common escalator is 2.9 percent.
  • Solar loan: A credit given by the bank, credit union, or special providers of finance to cover the expenses of buying a solar PV system.
  • Solar renewable energy credit (SREC): SREC is generated alongside every element (unit) of electric current that the solar panel system produces. SREC is sold for more income in some states.
  • Third-party owner (TPO): This lease or PPA, a solar company which is the owner of the solar system. By signing the solar lease or PPA, you agree with the third party owner.
  • Helpful tips to learn more about solar energy terminology and help you understand solar terms and comprehend all the available options.

How Solar Panel Generate Electricity

    Have you ever wondered how solar panels made of glass placed on your roof generate electrical and heat energy from the rays of the sun? It’s a pretty long process that I will attempt to simplify in this write-up.

     Solar power is used all over the world for energy generation. Over one million homes have a solar system in the U.S. and many more millions all over the world use it, especially in countries where electric supply is still epileptic. Solar energy endeared itself to many environmentalists because it produces a safe, clean and renewable source of energy.

pv system

The Photovoltaic Effect

    A solar system consists of a silicon cell, a metal frame, a glass casing, and wires for current flow. The mechanism of power generation can be explained using the photovoltaic effect.

  1. The silicon cells are photovoltaic in nature; they absorb the radiation from the sun.
  2. The radiation from the sun sets off a series of chemical reactions in which electrons gain momentum and begin to move.
  3. The movement of the electrons leads to energy generation which is captured and transported by the wires in the panel.
  4. The electric current is supplied to the inverter as direct current (DC) and later converted to alternating current (AC) by the inverter.
  5. The electrical energy generated is fed into the electric grid.

    The solar panel comes with a gas casing which protects the silicon cells and gives durability. Under the glass casing is a protective sheet. This sheet increases the durability of the silicon cells and also protects it from humidity and heat which can greatly affect the productivity of the panel. Solar panels have an anti-reflective coating which prevents sun rays from being reflected. This helps to increase the day absorption of the panel.

    The silicon cell is either monocrystalline or polycrystalline. Monocrystalline allows for better electron mobility even though polycrystalline is much more expensive.

Solar panel system and the grid connection

    Your home has a utility meter which measures the amount of electricity consumed in your household. Your solar system can also be connected to this meter and, the energy generated from the solar panel system can be effectively measured by the utility meter. Some homes have a net metering system. This system transfers excess energy produced by your solar power system to the grid in exchange for electricity when your solar power is under producing due to little or no sunshine.

When shopping for your solar panel:
  1. Be sure to explore all of your options. Ask for quotes and cost estimates from as many companies as possible. Pick the most pocket-friendly one.
  2. Smaller companies mostly offer cheaper rates than a large conglomerate. Do not be fixated on patronizing the big names. The small companies may be able to offer quality products at a more affordable rate.

Shopping for your solar panel system can be a bit taxing. Take your time, consider your options, and ask for a solar quotation from different sources. You can also approach your neighbors or friends who have solar panel systems installed to ask for their opinion and reviews.

Are Foreign-Made Solar Panels Any Good? Find Out More

A lot of questions are often asked by homeowners when making considerations for solar. Most of these questions relate to the manufacturer origin of a solar panel and if it’s a regrettable idea to select Chinese or other foreign-made solar panels for an installation.

This question is a very common one as the recent estimates show that at least 70% of the world’s solar panels are being manufactured by China today – this is a clear and supporting factor that dictates China’s major role in the solar industry globally. China has a substantial impact over global solar vogue such as manufacturing practices, warranties and pricing. For example, improvements in manufacturing costs in China was one of the major reasons for the 80% decline in global solar prices between 2008 and 2013.

Many U.S. homeowners are often skeptical if they should go for Chinese solar panels because of China’s large involvement in solar and if it will meet up with the quality of other top brands. Well, this article will enlighten you more about all you need to know about the Chinese solar panels brand; pricing and quality.

Chinese solar panel manufacturing vs. Chinese solar panel companies

Before we go ahead with making explanations of how Chinese solar panels compare to those made in other countries, it is very crucial to elucidate on what is called “Chinese solar panels”

As earlier explained, close to 70% of all solar panel equipment is made in China. Still, this doesn’t justify that Chinese companies form 70% of all solar manufacturers. Actually, a lot of companies worldwide subcontract their actual manufacturing to China as a result of low costs production.

Therefore, homeowners should reflect on what particular aspect of solar panel production is paramount to them; either if it’s where the company is headquartered, where the solar panel is manufactured or where the components are made. 

Let us take SunPower as an example. SunPower is a premium solar brand that is reputable for its high level of efficiency.  Everyone knows that SunPower is an American company located in San Jose, California. And still, the company now sources most of its production from China, Mexico and the Philippines. The panel itself is made in China and the solar components are mostly Chinese in origin.

Though SunPower is regarded as one of the top solar panels worldwide and an “American company”, the company is selling and distributing panels made elsewhere. Another ironic case is that of the Canadian Solar. The solar panel company which is very famous, has its headquarters in Canada and still, the panels are made in China.

Back to the main matter, if your focus is on procuring the panels with the highest quality, these two cited cases above would make you understand that it’s not a sensible method to indicate the quality of the product based on the country of company’s headquarters.

solar panel manufacturer

Are Chinese solar panels priced lower than other brands?

Solar panel tariff update

Although one can’t categorically make a solid affirmation when it comes to quality or price of solar panels, it is still very safe to say that typical Chinese solar manufacturers don’t price much unlike other brands because of the remarkable cheap cost of production in China. This contrariety between American solar panels and Chinese’s received media attention recently consequential to the bankruptcy of U.S. solar maker Suniva. In the early 2017, Suniva filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and petitioned the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) to place a heavy tariff on solar panels that are imported from China.

In summary, Suniva, which hails from Atlanta, Georgia with production facilities in Michigan and Georgia, insisted that their bankruptcy was as a result of inequitable competition. It claimed that the low prices from other rivals who subcontract to other Asian countries and China made the company fall less in profit.

The Trump administration levied a 30% tariff on solar imports to the United States on January 22nd, 2018. In accordance with a fact sheet published by the U.S. Trade Representative, the tariff is set to last for a duration of four years, and will drop annually by 5%  This means there will be a 15% tariff reduction in 2021.

Are Chinese solar panels lower quality than other manufacturer brands?

The main question of whether solar panels manufactured in China have lesser quality than other manufacturer origins is still left unanswered right? Okay, here is your answer, Chinese panels do NOT have lower quality than other manufacturer brands.

The vast majority of solar manufacturing takes place in Asia. In fact, the top 3 solar panel brands by market share (Trina, SunPower, Yingli Solar) produce their products in China.

In addendum, a diverse quality of solar panels (Economy, Standard, Premium) are manufactured in China and there is no latest complementary relationship between the panel’s quality level and either if it is made in China or in some other place.

For those customers who would rather purchase only an American manufactured panel, two great American manufacturers include Solaria (Freemont, CA) and Mission Solar (San Antonio, TX).

*Note: An All-American, 100% Made-in-the-USA panel does NOT exist. Even the American-based manufacturers use various imported manufactured components in their panels and inverters.

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Why Solar? – These 6 Reasons May Convince You To Go Solar

There are lots of benefits attached to going solar. Among its numerous advantages, the top reasons why you should consider going solar is energy costs reduction and environmental improvement. A lot of people know fully well that solar is a great option for your home efficiency upgrade as it improves property value.

Whatever could be your reason for going solar, maybe it’s personal, environmental, or economic related, we are presenting you this ample list of solar power benefits.

Relax and prepare your mind as we take you through this top six reasons why you should consider solar energy in your home today.

These 6 reasons should convince you to go Solar

1. Your electric bills get reduced drastically if not completely eliminated.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a homeowner, business, or nonprofit, just your electricity bill could sum up your largest monthly expenses. If you have a solar panel system, you can produce free power for your system’s entire 25+ year life cycle. Solar will help you save a lot of money with a significant reduction in your utility bills either you produce 100 percent of the energy you consume or not.

2. Receive a great return on your investment

One of the best ways to invest is solar. Solar panels aren’t in any form an expense. The returns you get from investing in solar is transcendent to other traditional investments like bonds and stocks.   Average American homeowners can now procure their own solar panel systems by paying off in seven to eight years. Sounds good right? not just that, they also get to receive a minimum of 20 percent ROI. This is all thanks to substantial electricity bill savings.

cost effective solar panels
3. Protection against rising energy costs

With the use of solar panels, you hedge utility prices. This is no doubt one of its laudable benefits. In few years back, residential electricity prices often increase on an average of three percent annually. When you invest in solar now, you have the ability to set your electricity rate and stay protected against unexpected increments in electricity costs. Either you are a homeowner or business with an uncertain cash flow, solar helps you manage your expenses judiciously with a better forecast.

 4. Jobs creation and assist your local economy

In accordance with The Solar Foundation, the solar industry has served as an icon of job creation in the US at an incredibly immense rate by representing 1.2 percent of all jobs in the country. This outgrowth is likely to continue. Jobs that are solar-related pay higher and can’t be outsourced. They are substantial contributors to the United States economy.

5. Increment of property value.

Diverse studies reveal that homes that are furnished with solar energy systems have higher property values which help them sell faster and richly than homes with no solar. A home that is installed with solar gains attraction, consideration and recommendation from appraisers. With the advent of more knowledge about solar, homebuyers are more interested in properties equipped with solar panel systems, thus, increasing the demand rate of such houses.

6. Protect the environment

The best way to reduce your carbon footprint is through solar. 38 percent of all carbon emissions in the United States comes from buildings. This simply illustrates that the number of carbon emissions can reduce significantly when people go solar.

Most Efficient Solar Panels on The Market and All You Need To Know About Solar Panel Efficiency

If you’re one of those who are seeking for the most efficient solar panels for their solar energy systems, it is very important that you first know how to make a comparison of different manufacturer brands’ efficiency metrics. Solar panel efficiency is one of the most helpful metrics used to ascertain how powerful solar panel from other products.

What you need to know about solar panel efficiency

Solar panel efficiency which is expressed as a percentage determines the ability of a solar panel to convert sunlight into electricity. 

With the same given amount of shining sunlight and equal time duration on the two solar panels with distinct efficiency ratings, the panel which is more efficient will produce more electricity than the other panel which is less efficient.

For example, two solar panels have an equated physical size, one has an efficiency rating of 21% and the other has an efficiency rating of 14%, the panel which has an efficiency rating of 21% will generate 50% more kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity under the same conditions that were given for the panel that has an efficiency rating of 14%. This implies that you need a top-tier solar panel efficiency to maximize your energy use and bill savings.

Solar panel efficiency is the most crucial criterion for a lot of consumers and people in the solar industry when assessing the quality of a solar panel.

Even as much as it’s an important criterion, you should not only consider just that when making your evaluation on the particular solar panel to install. Solar panel efficiency pertains to panel’s ability to convert energy at a low-cost and high supply rate.

These are some of the most efficient solar panels you can get

We present to you four of the most efficient solar panels in the industry. In order of rank in efficiency, they are:

1. SunPower (X21) – 22.2%

2. LG – 21.1%

3. Panasonic (HIT) 20.3%

4. Solaria (XT) – 19.4%

5. Panasonic (TESLA) – 19.4%

Solar panels on the market today with the most efficiency have a rating as high as 22.2%. Nevertheless, the efficiency rating of the majority of panels range from 15% to 17%.

The most efficient solar panels on the market today (2019) have efficiency ratings as high as 22.2%, whereas, the majority of panels range from 15% to 17% efficiency rating.

Efficient solar panel

SunPower panels are reliable for their photovoltaic panel which is one of the most reliable brand name readily available on the marketplace. They feature a greater cost yet its performance as a primitive metric of the rate of interest has actually made it be some customer’s favorite.

Do you care for maximum Production or maximum offset?

If you prefer to take full advantage of the quantity of electrical power that is being generated by your system or you simply intend to buy of the least quantity of electrical energy from the energy, however the readily available quantity of roofing system area to set up solar panels are restricted in size, you might take into consideration mounting photovoltaic panels with greater effectiveness. You will certainly obtain the optimum manufacturing from your photovoltaic panel system when you do this.

Is it about the cost or the value?

If you’re going for more efficient solar panels, rather than their less efficient counterparts, you should prepare for more cost.

We recommend that you do an analysis of whether the upfront cost difference is rationalized by the enhanced savings accomplished by producing more electricity over the lifespan of the system of your solar energy. If you have an Increased electricity production, that means you have to buy less power from your utility.

How to Choose The Right Solar Panel

Poly vs. Mono

When selecting solar panels (or modules) for your PV system, one should choose carefully since it’s a major determinant of success in solar power generation. There are two major types of solar panels. These are: Polycrystalline and Monocrystalline. Polycrystalline panels are sold at lower prices, are sensitive to high temperature, and have a shorter lifespan. Many Polycrystalline panels also tend to be less space efficient. Monocrystalline panels are more expensive to buy but they are highly efficient, suitable for commercial use and have a longer lifespan than their polycrystalline counterpart.

solar panel types

Selection Criteria

One of the primary features of solar panels you should think about is the panel (and system’s) efficiency. Read more on that subject here (link). Other factors in your decision should be total cost and financing options, warranty features, and technology aspects.

This brings us to the discussion about solar panels manufactures. The current top three solar panel manufacturer and companies are JinkoSolar, Trina Solar and Canadian Solar. However, there have been changes in the last few years which have seen the introduction of some new up and comers into the solar manufacturing industries. It’s not a bad bet to go with one of the big three because if you ever need to replace a panel or add to your system down the road, there’s a better chance of finding a match.

Many Great Options

Because of the increase in demand for solar power, many more companies can now compete for market share and so the choice can be overwhelming. The question is, is it a must that the solar company you buy your solar panels from be one of the top manufacturing companies? Or is quality, regardless of manufacturer more important?

It’s important you know that the quantity of sales made is the major determining factor for ranking solar manufacturing companies and not necessarily the quality and cost-benefit the customers derive. Therefore, if you are choosing to go for one of the top manufacturing companies, be sure you are not just purchasing from them because they are a top company but also because they offer you quality and good value in exchange for money.

Long-Term Consideration

Your solar panels are supposed to be effective and last you a lifetime of at least two-three decades of use. Ask your solar contractor about the warranties offered and testing and manufacturing standards and histories of the product(s) you’re considering.

Solar Panels And Their Incredible Savings, See How Much You Can Save

Environmental improvement is not the only good reason why you should procure your solar panels, you can make a lot of incredible and mouth-watering savings over the lifetime from your solar panel system.

Can solar panels really help make good savings?

The advent of diverse available investment opportunities in this present time has raised a lot of skepticism for new promising products that can help consumers save a lot of money. Solar panels are also a very good way of saving. They help to reduce your electricity bill and serve as a means of upgrade for your house. So, if you’re asking if solar panels really help make good savings, the simple and straight answer is YES. And then, how much you will be able to save is dependent upon a lot of factors.

Some of these important factors are the size and angle of your roof and direct hours of daily sunlight. In addition, the local electricity rates are also key determining on how much you can save from solar.

Solar panels save how much from electric bills?

To understand how much solar can help you save, you need to first make a calculation of how much you are currently spending on electricity each year.

For example, 10,400 kilowatt-hours (kWh) is the medium electricity use that is needed for a U.S. household. As of October 2018, the national average electricity rate is $0.1287 per kWh. If you multiply the two together, you will realize that an average American family spends at least $1,335 a year just on electricity.

After that, you have to put into consideration the changeable character of electricity prices and ascertain what utility rates will be in the coming years. When you are making a comparison between the cost of utility electricity with home solar, bear it in mind that the electricity rates are likely to increase annually. In few years before, there has been an increased rate of national electricity costs at approximately 2.2% per year.

When you use solar, you don’t need to be bothered about utility rate inflation, this is one of its credible advantages. There are no variable utility rates if you generate your own energy with a rooftop PV system. Your energy costs stay at a constant rate.

Because of solar’s nature as an upfront investment, costs related with a solar system are installation cost and any additional electricity costs in the cases where your panels do not offset completely 100% of your electricity use.

 What primarily determines if your system will completely offset your electricity needs is the size accuracy of your PV system. To secure that percentage, you can make a calculation of how many solar panels will be requisite for that.

Will you still pay electric bill when you’re using solar panels?

People often think that when they install solar panels, it will completely wave off electric bill. No, it doesn’t work like that. You would still receive bill from your utility if you install enough solar to completely offset your electricity use so far your property remains grid-connected. Nevertheless, this doesn’t imply that you will forever be paying money on your bill, continue reading and see why.

solar panel
Solar panel at home

There’s a policy called net metering. This policy is available almost in all states and it allows the unused energy produced by your solar panels to be forwarded to the grid as an exchange for your electric bill credits. This permits you to draw from the grid at night when you aren’t powering your solar panels because the sun is not shining. If you draw back the same amount you provided to the grid or less amount, you do not pay any extra money.

Whenever you’re given your monthly electric bill, there will be an indication on the net metering credits you used and there would be no charges for that power.

Where you might see small charges for electricity is where you might have used electricity pulled from the grid that wasn’t offset by net metering credits.

To summarize it all, installing solar panels doesn’t stop you from receiving electric bill. It is possible that the bill you receive might ask you to pay nothing but only indicate how your usage was offset by net metering credits for the month.

If you supply more electricity to the grid than you draw, there would be a roll over of your unused bill credits to the following month that you can take advantage of.

Above all, the bone of contention is that solar panels will help to drastically reduce your average monthly electric bill charges, and in some cases, there might be a total elimination of your monthly electric bill.

What amount of carbon footprint can solar panels reduce?

Money isn’t the only considerably factor for going solar, environmental improvement is also one of the vital reasons.

By installing solar, you’re consequentially making an improvement in the environment and a reduction in emissions of greenhouse gas.

There are two ways to answer the question “What amount of carbon footprint can solar panels reduce?” These are – the amount of money you can save from solar and how much CO2 you can save from being ejected into the atmosphere. There is a formula that is given by the Environmental Protection Agency to make a calculation of how diverse green practices result in reductions of carbon emissions. You may try that out.

solar carbon footprint
You can make huge savings with solar panels

Either you want to make great savings or you want to reduce carbon emissions, a solar panel system will definitely yield huge savings for homeowners. However, one factor that determines how much you save is the cost of electricity at your place of residence.

All the same, solar will be a risk-free investment with major returns if you reside in a state with middle to upper-level utility rates.

Solar Evolution – How Has Solar Technology and Prices Evolved Over Time?

The energy from the sun in the form of light and heat has so much effect on the earth we live in. The sun is believed to be the earth’s power and without the sun, the earth becomes inhabitable. Plants use the sunlight for photosynthesis. Many other inhabitants of the earth also draw energy from the sun, not excluding man. The solar system has been in existence before man and as it is known of man to use the surrounding elements to his own advantage, the sun will not be spared as well. Man since time immemorial have found ways, no matter how crude, to tap energy from the sun. This energy is then used for different purposes. History has it that the energy from the sun was tapped by the humans many years ago in other to light fire. The magnifying glass is the instrument used to achieve this feat.

Also, the Romans and the Greek were said, according to history, to use energy from the sun to light touches for the religious celebration. They used mirrors to tap solar power. The Chinese were documented to use solar power for the same purpose. The concept of the sunroom in houses and buildings which is still popular today is an idea powered by tapping energy from the sun. The sunroom in a building uses huge windows to concentrate sunlight to an area in the house. The general idea behind tapping solar power in the early years revolves around the use of mirrors.

Regardless of the reasons solar power is interesting to us and what purpose we try to find in it, it is certain that solar power is useful to us. It is this usefulness that has triggered the desire to make research along this line. Today, solar power has a long list of usefulness to us with a major focus on how it can generate electricity for us. This has drawn us away from the use of mirrors and massive glass in other to concentrate the power of the sun, to the development of solar panels. The general idea behind the solar panel is to collect photons from the sunlight and then transform them into electrons to produce direct current. The direct current will then be inverted or converted into Alternate current which is the electricity we use. The materials from which the panels are made are different. However, the general idea is usually the same regardless.

New-age solar panel technology

Fifty to even just twenty years ago, the idea of going solar was much more novel and pricey. This is because of the low level of development and wide-spread manufacturing around the use of solar panels. Firstly, the challenge was how to translate from the use of mirrors which is majorly to produce heat and set a fire, to a component that will attract the solar energy and then give it out in the form of electricity. We scaled through that by the discovery of PV effect (Photovoltaic effects) which was of great influence and the first leap toward the development of a solar panel that generates electricity. From there, it was discovered that a material called selenium do generate electricity when it is been exposed to sunlight. This took us to a whole new level and served as the basis for the majority of the solar panels we have today as they are made from silicon. That was how the first challenge became solved. The use of silicon in making solar panel took effect and began to serve as a source of renewable energy about 15 years ago.

The bridge has been crossed and we now know how to tap solar energy to produce electricity. However, the first few years of this development was faced with two major challenges which are:

The efficiency of solar panels:

Solar panel efficiency refers to the fragment of sunlight energy that a photovoltaic panel can convert into electricity for consumption. The first generations of solar panels produced were of very little efficiency. The rate of conversion of solar light or photons absorbed to the electricity produced was very low. They were as low as having less than 1% conversions rate. This made the possibility of using solar energy a far cry and looks almost impossible. However, the relentless effort of researchers has brought about a great improvement in the efficiency of the panels. Today we certainly have solar panels that are 30% efficient and more work is still been done to develop more panel efficiency.

Recent development claims to have gotten a 42% efficient solar panel. Before the year 2012, the previous years, 1960 to early 2010, recorded a low efficiency of solar panels. It was in 2012 that things took a good turn when efficiency increased to about 17.8%. Late 2015 also gave the good news of 22% efficiency. Early 2016, NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) and CSEM (Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology) achieved a 29.8% efficiency rate. 2017 gave an increase in efficiency to above 40% and in 2019, there has been an integration of various mechanisms into the development of solar panels that has given a great increase in the efficiency rate and research still continues. The disadvantage of this great development is that these highly efficient panels are made from expensive materials and these materials are costly.

The cost of solar panels

1st generation solar panel

The first generations of solar panels were not only low in efficiency they were also very expensive. This added to the constraint of making solar power commercial. However, in addition to the increase in efficiency rate, manufacturers have improved their manufacturing process and this has made the cost of solar panels much more affordable. Manufacturers also put in some economic indices to minimize the cost of production. Today the concept of renewable energy has become wide-spread, thanks to relentless researchers and economies of scale making the technology accessible to the masses.

Solar Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

We have made a sample list of frequently asked questions that covers the use of solar for your home or business.

Are there enough good reasons to go solar?

solar faqs

1. If I go for solar energy, what are the financial benefits ?

You save a lot of money on your electricity bills and get protected against increasing electricity costs in the future when you install a solar energy system on your property. The amount of savings you will make is dependent on the utility rates and solar policies in your area. Regardless of where you might be living, solar is a smart investment.

2. What are the environmental benefits of solar energy?

Just like other renewable energy resources, solar power has numerous health and environmental benefits. There is a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions when you go solar. Solar is a great contributor to climate change and air pollutants reduction. It also helps to reduce these attached environmental problems that can create health issues.

 3. How can I find out how much I pay for electricity?

We recommend that you take a look at your utility electricity bill to find out how much you pay for electricity and your monthly electricity use. It is the quickest and easiest method.

4. What is the meaning of net metering?

Net metering is simply explained as a system that allows solar energy system owners to be credited for the electricity produced by their solar panels. When you are on net metering, you are only charged for the electricity that you consume beyond your supplied unused generated energy. Please be informed that net metering policies are not the same in all states.

 5. Does solar impact my property values positively or negatively?

Diverse studies have revealed that homes that are installed with solar energy systems sell incredibly faster than homes without them. Nevertheless, you should note that leasing a solar energy system doesn’t increase your property value. Your property value increases only when you own your solar energy system.

How do solar panels work for my home?

6. How do solar photovoltaic (PV) panels work?

Throughout the day, solar panels absorb the energy in the sun and get it converted into direct current (DC) electricity. Majority of homes and businesses operate on alternating current (AC) electricity. This means that before the energy is converted to usable AC electricity, the DC is made to pass through an inverter. At this junction, you may choose to utilize the electricity in your house or send it back to the electric grid.

7. Do my solar panels produce power when the sun isn’t shining?

It is the availability of sunlight that will determine the amount of power your solar energy system can generate. This means that when the weather is cloudy, you get less energy produced by your solar panels and no energy at night. Nevertheless, even if you reside in a cloudy city, solar is still a good idea because of high electricity costs and financial incentives

8. What if there is a snow on solar panels?

If your panels are covered in snow,  they can’t produce electricity because solar panels convert sunshine into power. It is unlikely for snow to cause structural issues with your panels because it isn’t heavy enough and it is likely to slide off since most panels are tilted at an angle.

9. Can I go off grid with solar panels?

You will still be connected to the grid when you install solar panels on your property. This permits you to draw from the grid when all the power you need is not produced by your system. You can go off the grid with a solar energy system that includes battery storage but we don’t recommend this to homeowners because it’s not necessary and would cost a whole lot more.

10. Will I still receive an electric bill if I have solar panels?

Yes of course, you will still receive a bill from your utility unless you are fully off the grid and your solar energy system includes battery storage. However, it is possible to reduce your bill drastically or even reduce your owed amount to $0 if you procure a solar panel system that matches exactly your energy consumption.

11. Do solar panels work in a blackout?

In the case of a blackout and your solar panel system is connected to the grid, it will shut off. The essence of this is to curb your panels from injuring electricity utility repair-people and emergency responders. Still, you can make purchase of some inverters that give you backup power in a blackout.

 12. How much will solar panel maintenance cost?

Your solar panel system needs little or no maintenance for the 25 to 35 years they will be generating power because it is made of durable tempered glass. In fact, there is no need for you to clean your solar panels regularly. If something eventually goes wrong, there are warranties that cover them. These warranty terms however depend on the company.

What are my solar financing options?

13. What solar energy rebates and incentives are available?

Solar rebates and incentives differ based on your area of residence. The most substantial is the 30 percent federal investment tax credit (ITC), which gives you the freedom of subtracting 30 percent  of your solar energy system’s cost from your taxes. There are additional tax credits that are offered by some states.

14. What are my solar financing options?

Three solar financing options are available: you may sign a solar lease/power purchase agreement (PPA), take out a solar loan to buy your system or purchase your system in cash.

15. Should I buy or lease my solar panel system?

Your reasons for going solar are what would determine if you’re buying or leasing your solar energy system. If you want to maximize the financial returns of your solar energy system, we recommend that you purchase your system. If you just want to reduce your energy bills and help the environment in an easy and maintenance-free way, you may consider leasing a solar. The choice is yours.

16. Which is better – solar loans or solar leases?

Both solar loans and solar leases have their pros and cons. The major advantage of the two is that there is a reduction in your monthly electricity bills and an environmental improvement.

17. What is the difference between secured solar loans and unsecured solar loans?

The main difference between secured and unsecured solar loans is that you require to promise an asset as a collateral (which is usually your home) for secured solar loans while you do not require collateral to borrow money on unsecured solar loans but you will be paying a higher interest rates as compensation for the increased risk the lender is taking.

18. How do I choose the best solar loan?

To chose the best solar loan that is best suitable for you, we recommend you to make a comparison of distinct options from a few different financing providers.

Am I ready for solar?

19. Can I afford to go solar?

So far you can afford to pay your electricity bill, yes, you can afford to go solar.

20. Is my roof suitable for solar panels?

The ideal roof for installing solar is southerly facing roofs with little to no shade with sufficient space to fit a solar panel system.

 21. What size solar energy system should I get?

It is the weather of the area you live and your monthly electricity use that will determine the size of your solar energy system. We suggest that you take a look at your previous electricity bills and make comparisons from licensed solar installers to ascertain the perfect system size for your needs.

 22. Do I need to replace my roof before installing solar?

It can be very costly to remove and reinstall solar energy systems if you need to make a replacement. Solar energy systems can last for 25 to 35 years. Nevertheless, if there is a need to make repairs on your roof, do them and ensure the completion before you finish installing your solar.

23. How long will my solar power system last?

Solar panels are durable and resistant to wind, hail and snow. At different times, you will need to replace various components of your solar power system but your system should continue to serve its main function of generating electricity for 25 to 35 years.

24. What happens if I sell my solar house?

If you have your own solar energy system, you will sell your solar house at a premium because of its solar value. However, the case is different if you lease your system.

How do I evaluate solar quotes?

25. How do I choose a solar installer?

There are certain criteria you must consider when choosing a solar installer. Make sure you confirm that they are insured, licensed, certified and have enough experience.

26. How do I compare solar quotes?

It might be a bit herculean to compare multiple quotes from different solar installers because it’s not the same underlying assumptions and metrics that are used by all solar installers.

27. What are the different types of solar panels?

At NextLevelEnergy, we group solar panels into three distinct categories: Economy, Standard, and Premium. Premium performs best but with higher price tag, Economy panels are low-priced with low durability.

28. What are the different types of power inverters?

There are three types of power inverters. They are, microinverters, string/centralized inverters, and power optimizers.

29. What happens during the solar power installation process?

The first thing you need to do while going solar is to register on NextLevelEnergy where you can receive and make comparison of numerous installation quotes. The actual installation takes a day or two to complete.

30. Should I ask for a solar monitoring system for my solar panels?

If you need detailed information on the amount of energy your solar panel system is producing, you are at liberty to enquire from your installer about solar monitoring system options.

31. Do I need to install solar batteries with my solar power system?

For most solar homeowners, batteries are not necessary. In as much as you are connected to the grid, your system doesn’t require a battery.

 What is shared solar?

32. How is this different from rooftop solar?

You receive a part of the generated energy from a large solar panel system if you buy into a community solar project. In contrast to home solar panel system, you don’t install community solar project on your roof.

33. How should I evaluate my options?

Foremost, make a decision if you prefer to own your share or find a subscription-based program. If you decide to go for ownership, this implies that you’ll be making an up-front investment in order to save money in the future. If you decide to go for subscription-based programs, you can make savings over a set period of time.

34. What if I move or have to cancel?

You can keep your share of the community solar project if you move, provided that your new home is within the same service area. If you relocate outside the service area, you are requested to sell your share if they are yours, transfer a subscription to another account or you may make an early payment of cancellation fee (if you choose a subscription-based model). Terms for cancellation are different based on project and provider.

35. How does it save me money?

Your unavailability to install solar panels on your roof is no longer a problem when you invest in community solar. You save money and enjoy electricity in your home or business. You don’t have to buy electricity at standard utility rates when you’re participating in a community solar project because you’re paying less for solar electricity.

36. How will it appear on my electric bill?

If you subscribe to a community solar project or you own a share, you will receive virtual net metering credits on your electric bill from your utility.