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An Introduction To Solar Power Systems
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An Introduction to Solar Power Systems

There are two kinds of solar power systems your home can have: An on-grid system or an off grid stand alone system.

ON GRID SYSTEMS

On grid systems are connected to the local electricity grid. When the sun is out, solar panels absorb energy and convert it into electricity for use. Any extra power not used is then sold back to the grid, for which you are paid (known as a Feed in Tariff). As the sun fades and energy stops being produced, your household starts taking energy off of the grid for your energy needs, for which you pay. You can save money, eliminate your energy bill altogether, or even show a profit depending on the size and efficiency of your system, and your households energy use.

OFF GRID SYSTEMS

Off grid, or stand alone, systems are designed to exist outside of the energy grid. As such they must supply your home with all its energy needs, and generally need to be larger and more expensive than on grid systems. They must produce enough power during the darkest days of the winter to meet your energy needs. They also need a battery system to store energy for the night, adding to the complexity and cost of these systems. A backup generator is a good idea for such systems, to make up for short falls in energy production.

PARTS OF A SYSTEM

A solar power system consists of 3 main components: The solar panels themselves, a mounting system, and the inverter.

The solar panels are where the energy is produced. Solar energy strikes the panels, and produces a stream of electricity, which is then fed into the inverter.

The inverter converts the electricity into a form that can be used by your household. It comes out the solar panels as DC current, but the inverter converts to AC so it can be used by household appliances.

A mounting system attempts to maximize the energy produced by creating the angle the panels face the sun at. This can be as simple as a metal frame, or as complex as a mechanical system that automatically adjusts the panels based on the latitude and time of day. Generally speaking, the angle of your panels should be equal to the latitude of where you live form the equator. New York State is at 40 degrees latitude, so if you lived there you would angle your panels at 40 degrees facing south.

The costs of solar power systems will vary, depending on whether you have an on grid or off grid system, and your energy needs.

Good luck and stay prepared!


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