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OPB Business Partner
  1992- 2010 Tax-Credit Certified Solar Technician
The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners


What Is Solar Electric / Photovoltaics?

Solar electric, what's called Photovoltaics, is probably the most romantic and coveted way of using solar energy. With these solar systems you can actually slow how fast your electric meter spins or even spin it backwards! The way this is done is by installing photovoltaic panels on your roof. Solar Energy Solutions has been selling and installing solar electric systems since 1992.

How Much Does It Cost?

From our observations, Photovoltaic, grid-tied solar electric systems, generally range in cost between $3.00 for a very large residential system using average panels to $5.50 per watt for a small system using top of the line solar panels. The reason for the price difference is due to the complexity of the installation, the kind of solar electric equipment you choose and the fact that the bigger the system you buy the lower the cost per watt. There are many incentives in place here in Oregon to encourage people to go solar.

How Big of a System Should I Install?

There are basically three ways to figure out how big or small of a grid-tied photovoltaic system you should install. The first way of sizing a system is by how big your roof is. How many photovoltaic panels can you fit on it? The second is by figuring out what your yearly electric energy consumption is (how many kilowatt hours your house uses in a year) and then deciding what percent of this consumption you wish to replace with a photovoltaic system. The final and most popular way of figuring out what size system you wish to install is by determining how much money you would like to invest in this kind of a solar system. Unlike other solar energy applications, there is really no limit as to how big or small of a system you install. It is solely based upon the above factors.

Where Can I Install The Panels?

You will need a sunny south- or west-facing roof for your photovoltaic panels. Photovoltaic panels take up a lot of roof space, so you will need a very large and sunny, rectangular, and ideally contiguous roof space to place them on. This roof space should have little or no tree or building shade, like chimneys, falling on it from 10 am to 4 pm year round.

Does It Only Work On Sunny Days?

The photovoltaic panels will generate electricity better under sunny conditions but produce electricity even when it is raining.

How Does It Connect To My Electric Meter and How Does my Electric Company Keep Track of my Production?

The electricity produced from the photovoltaic panels goes to an inverter. The inverter makes the electricity generated from the photovoltaic panels compatible with the power coming into your house. From the inverter, the electricity the photovoltaic panels generate goes to your electric meter. The electricity your photovoltaic panels generate off-sets the flow of electricity going into your house from the utility company. The less power you consume, and the more power your photovoltaic system produces, the greater the impact the photovoltaic system has.

Your electric company keeps track of the power you are producing and sends you a statement along with your bill every month explaining how much power you have produced that month and year. Think of your utility company as your energy bank. Your solar system deposits energy into this account and the power you consume withdraws it. Every March 1st the balance is zeroed out and you start anew.

What Else Can I Do To Lower My Energy Consumption?

It is important to think about energy conservation when thinking about your Photovoltaic system. However, it is not essential. If you want a photovoltaic system to have the greatest impact on your electric consumption for the least amount of money, energy conservation would be an important thing to consider. If conservation is something you are open to, here are some things for you to think about. Think about replacing every single one of your incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent bulbs or LEDs. These alternatives lights consume a fraction of the energy conventional lights consume and have a lifespan 100 to 1000 times longer! Think about replacing your refrigerator which is consuming 7-12 kilowatt hours a day with a highly efficient one which only consumes 1-2 kilowatt hours a day. Replace your old washer with an energy efficient model where the clothes are spun so rapidly they come out of the washer mostly dry. This will cut your dryer time in half. Eliminate electric loads that you are not using. For example, clock radios that you have plugged in or other electronics that have lights on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Turn your computer completely off at a power strip when you are not using it. Look for a microwave that does not have a clock on it. Basically and ideally, challenge yourself to examine your electric bill every month and figure out ways to make it smaller and smaller. This does not mean, nor should it, that you have to compromise on the lifestyle you have grown accustomed to. It simply means making some minor adjustments.