HOW SOLAR WORKS FAQS
Questions about how solar works are common. Find all the answers to your solar questions in this convenient solar FAQ page.
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Solar panels can seem like magical devices that turn sunshine into electricity and cut your energy bills effortlessly. But how do solar panels actually work? How can solar take the sun’s rays and use it to power your microwave, television, electric vehicle and more?
The simple answer is that solar panels use the sun’s photons (light particles) to strip electrons from atoms (mainly silicon atoms). These free electrons are then sent through wires as electricity.
Those free electrons then flow into your house as electricity and are used by electrical appliances.
Any electricity that is not used in your house is sent onto the electricity grid and spin your utility meter backwards.
Thanks to generous net metering laws in Oregon, you can earn energy credits for overproducing energy and sending it to the grid. You can use those energy credits for months when you consume more electricity than you use.
This is a simple diagram of a how a solar panel installation works.
Sunlight hits the solar panels, which convert the sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity. This DC electricity is then sent through an inverter, which turns DC electricity into alternating current (AC) electricity.
This AC electricity is then sent into the home and used by electrical appliances. Any electricity that is not used is sent to the utility grid through a net meter. This net meter tracks the amount of electricity that is used in the house or sent out onto the grid.
Rooftop solar is attached to or placed on your roof. There are several different types of rooftop solar racking systems, including rail-less racking and ballasted racking, the last of which does not require roof penetration.
Ground-mounted solar is installed on the ground. Again, there are several different types of ground-mounted solar racking, including systems that screw pipes into the ground for support or piers that are set in concrete.
Read more about the differences between ground-mounted and roof-mounted solar. Click here.
Rooftop solar is the most commonly installed type of solar. The benefits or pros of rooftop solar include easier and cheaper install, as well as the ability to capture more sun because of height.
The downsides or cons of rooftop solar include limitations caused by a fixed roof orientation, limited roof size, roof obstacles (chimneys, skylights, etc.), and the need to replace the roof or add additional structural supports.
Ground-mounted solar is also a popular choice for solar installation. The benefits or pros of ground-mounted solar include its flexibility and versatility. Ground-mounted solar is not limited to the size and orientation of your roof, so it can be placed in a location and position that is best for solar production. Additionally, there is a diversity of ground-mount racking options, such as solar trackers and solar awnings and carports, that can be specially built for unique situations.
The downsides or cons of ground-mounted solar include increased cost due to additional materials, time, and labor required. However, long-term costs can be smaller thanks to ease of access and not having to replace the roof in the future.
Some homeowners and electricians might be tempted to install solar on their own. However, this can be a costly move.
Installing solar on your own means you are no longer eligible for most solar incentives, including federal, state, and local solar incentives. Those are huge savings that could have slashed the cost of your solar install.
Also, if you are not a solar installation professional, it can be easy to make small or major mistakes that could lead to your solar install not working properly. Even worse, it could lead to solar malfunction and potential property damage.
Solar Definitely works in Oregon! It’s a common misconception that because Oregon is known for its cloudy and rainy weather that solar is unfeasible.
Oregon receives an abundance of solar energy, especially the southern and eastern portions of Oregon.
Despite the relative cloudy and rainy climate of Oregon, solar is still a popular and productive energy resource. And when you compare the climate of Oregon to Germany, a country that is installing solar like crazy and having great success, Oregon has a lot more solar potential (see map below).
Net metering is a powerful tool for Oregon residents to control their energy usage and save tons on their monthly utility bills.
Net metering in Oregon is a billing mechanism that credits energy consumers for any excess energy they send to the grid.
With net metering, solar homeowners and businesses will only be billed for the “net” energy they consume each month. This is calculated by subtracting the amount of energy produced from the energy consumed.
This means that when the solar panels are producing more than the house or business is consuming, the meter runs backwards.
If the solar panels produce more energy than the homeowners or business consume in a month, they will receive credits they can apply towards future energy consumption. However, it is important to know that energy credits expire on an annual basis.
Determining how many solar panels an Oregon homeowner needs to power their home requires several different factors.
These factors include how much energy you use, how much of that energy you want to offset, how much sun your location receives, the types of solar panels you choose, and potential future increases in energy consumption.
As you can see, calculating how many solar panels you need is not easy to do on your own. The number of factors and considerations involved can be difficult to handle on your own. Thankfully, Green Ridge Solar can break down these factors and help you calculate the number of solar panels you need and an estimated cost for installation.
The ideal orientation for installing solar is a south-facing roof. However, you do not need a south-facing roof to install solar or for solar to make financial sense. East-facing and west-facing roofs are also good options for installing solar.
On average, east-facing and west-facing solar panels produce 15% ti 20% less electricity than south-facing roofs. However, this can be easily offset by installing a few additional panels to cover that gap.
North-facing roofs are normally unfit for solar installations due to low solar production.
One of the great things about solar panels is that they require little to no maintenance.
Solar panels contain no moving parts, which means there are almost no components that can wear out and fail. This contributes to the very long lifespan of solar panels.
On occasion, it might be a good idea to clean your solar panels, but this is normally taken care of by Oregon’s rainy weather.
The main maintenance required for solar installations are related to inverters and other peripheral parts. Thankfully, inverters are covered by warranties.