Solar for the Soul

This post was written by Spring 2018 intern Michele Deluca.

Reading the past posts from my lovely fellow interns left me feeling all warm and fuzzy, but I’m here to interrupt the feel-good posts to drop some cold, hard knowledge about PHOTOVOLTAIC SYSTEMS!!

We had the pleasure of welcoming Ken and Spencer last week, who came to show us how to install our solar panels and systems , and to give us some background on how they work (a throwback to some forgotten days of high school where we learned about things like amps and watts and voltage). Our crew got to climb up on the roof and pretend to be solar installers for the day – attaching racking, panels, and inverters and wiring up the electrical. We’re basically professionals now!

Deciding where to place solar panels is an important part of the installation process. Panels that are shaded by something even as small as a leaf can lead to a huge loss of efficiency. Ken showed us this super awesome gadget called a solar pathfinder which can be helpful when placing a solar array. It features a glass dome that reflects any trees or buildings in the area, which is overlaid on an image showing the path of the sun throughout the year. It allows you to determine any trees or buildings that could potentially shade the solar panels over the course of a day or year. It’s a very low-tech but super effective device, and fun to play with ! All our solar panels face south, because we’re in the northern hemisphere, and are most effective on a ~30 degree slope.

Ever heard of Net Metering? Each of the houses we’re building has an array of solar panels that will produce electricity, which will be used directly in the house on sunny days. Any excess electricity is sent onto the grid. At night and on cloudy days, when the panels aren’t producing enough electricity to meet the needs of the house, energy will be drawn from the grid. The homeowners end up paying for their net energy use, which is the difference between the excess they produce and the energy they draw. This usually ends up meaning zero energy bills!

The price tag on solar panels can sometimes seem like an intimidating investment, but with energy costs increasing at such a high rate, solar is becoming more and more viable. On average, it takes homeowners just over 10 years to start making money back on their solar setup. Young homeowners – get into solar! Your future selves will thank you when you’ve saved tens of thousands of dollars in energy bills. Oh, and did I mention, it’s clean energy that’s good for the planet?!  The sun’s not going anywhere (anytime soon, at least) and the technology behind solar panels is taking off, making this an exciting time to be learning about the possibilities of Sun Power!

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