Residential Photovoltaic, home solar power

Residential Photovoltaic Systems are becoming popular and many want to know what they are and how to handle installation and financing of these systems. Many are seeking the technology background on solar systems

What is a Residential Photovoltaic System?

It is a small size power plant that can supply the electric consumption of a dwelling unit partly or fully

The system directly converts sun radiation to DC electrical power using the photovoltaic effect in an efficient way

Families that installed the system enjoy clean energy and a substantial saving in their electricity bills

The main components of the system are the solar panels and the DC to AC inverter

For homes that are not connected to the grid (half mile or more from the nearest power lines) one needs to add deep cycle batteries and a charge controller

Two types of residential solar power systems

The first type is for homes that are connected to the grid. These home can potentially sell electricity to the utility in times where their consumption is less than the production of their home solar system (e.g. during the day when the family members are at work and school)

The second type are homes that are not connected to the grid. These homes need storage batteries that store electricity during day light to be used at nights and for cloudy days. It is recommended to add a wind turbine if the land size is over one acre and the region is windy enough

Price of small size photovoltaic system

The price can range from $2 per watt (bigger systems) to $4 per watt. A typical system size for a family home is 3 Kilowatt of production capability.

Tax rebates and other incentives

The US federal government, most of the states and some US utilities provide for energy tax rebates

Many countries have similar arrangements; in some countries (such as Israel) the utility pays more for electricity it buys than the price on which it sells. This reduces the time it takes for a full payback of the initial investment

Financing and Leasing

Financing to clean energy are available. An emerging model is to lease the system. Two examples are:

  • SolarCity, a California based company, provide solar lease programs in California, Oregon, and Arizona
  • Connecticut Clean Energy Fund (CCEF) – CT Solar Lease Program, provides for zero down-payment lease for fifteen years paying time.

Residential Photovoltaic - Cost Reduction Trends

Bellow are the technological trends and market pressures that are bringing the cost of residential solar power down.

  • Better solar panels' efficiency equates to smaller area of solar electric panels, a cost reduction factor by itself. An already used technology for enterprise and utility size installation, the concentrated solar power generator can provide a cost reduction path. Scaling down efforts for home size systems (2 to 4 kW) are under way.

  • The advance high volume production technology of thin film solar electric panels

  • Volume production and lower cost materials cause further cost reductions; cheaper solar panels start to appear in the market

  • Increased competition push the prices of solar photovoltaic panels down; significant reduction in 2012

  • Inverters, the second major component of a solar system, become more sophisticated, like most other electronics, on the newest models you will get more features for the same money

In certain situations, a solar tracker can enhance the annual electrical generation output from a given solar panels array; not really suitable for small installations

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