Evolving solar solutions and technology is shaping the future for more utility customers to become independent of the utility grid.
Advances in technology now allow residents to install solar panels on their home, property, or commercial business and create enough electricity through photovoltaic cells to provide enough power for all your electrical needs. California has become the first state to provide 5% of its electricity by solar power, and as more customers take advantage of the year-round sun to power their homes, many advantages arise beyond saving thousands of dollars on electric bills.
It is common to see solar panels affixed to roofs and canyon hillsides all across California, and for many curious onlookers, the first questions that comes to mind is ‘How do solar panels work?’ and ‘How can they allow homeowners to become independent of the utility grid?’
Solar panels are made up of several small units called photovoltaic (PV) cells which contain two layers of semi-conductor materials. As sunlight hits the solar panels the light causes the electrons to move and jump from the first layer to the second layer. This flow of electrons is direct current (DC) electricity. The more sun that hits the panel, the more electricity is produced by the PV system.
The DC electricity flows from the panels into an inverter (read more about micro-inverters vs. string inverters here) which converts the DC current into AC current, which is what all electrical appliances use when plugged into a wall outlet. A two-way meter tracks the power produced by the solar panel system and any electricity that your home doesn’t immediately need is either stored in batteries for later use in your home, or it is sent to the utility grid and your account is credited the amount for later use.
In sunny locations such as much of California, solar panels can be a great way for homeowners to save money on their utility bills, become independent from the utility grid, and help the environment along the way.
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