About Solar

Solar energy is made possible by the photovoltaic effect, a process that converts light (photons) to electricity (voltage). First identified in 1954, this discovery led scientists to create photovoltaic (PV) cells using silicon, which capture sunlight and make solar-generated electricity possible.

Solar cells were initially used to power space satellites as well as smaller items like calculators and watches. But refinements in the technology brought about individual solar PV systems used to power homes and businesses. Utility companies also began using PV technology for large power stations.

How does solar work?

Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic cells that absorb rays from the sun and convert them into DC power. The DC power travels to an inverter that converts the DC into AC power to be used as electricity. AC power then travels to the breaker box and is available for use in place of the electricity produced from the grid.

Residential Systems

Typically, solar cells are combined into modules (panels) that hold about 40 cells to power homes. Ten to twenty solar panels will power an average home. This combination of many panels into one system is known as a solar array.

Panels are mounted at a fixed angle facing south. More advanced systems may feature panels mounted on a tracking device that follows the sun, increasing the efficiency of the system.

Commercial Systems

Business and industry can take advantage of the same solar technology used in homes. But they also may use additional applications that would not be practical at the residential level.

For example, the need for ventilated air to maintain indoor air quality has led to solar space heating systems, which can preheat the ventilated air. This is energy-saving technology that is particularly valuable in colder parts of the country.

Solar energy can also be used for water heating purposes in larger buildings. And thermally activated cooling systems (TACS) driven by solar energy can be used for air cooling.