Solar 101: Solar For Beginners in Texas
WHAT IS SOLAR ENERGY
In Texas, the sunlight that reaches the earth is a valuable source of energy that can be harnessed through solar power. This sunlight is composed of 50% visible light, 45% infrared radiation, ultraviolet rays, and electromagnetic radiation. The heat radiations from this sunlight trigger chemical reactions that produce electricity.
Solar energy in Texas can be captured in two forms: thermal or electric power. Solar thermal power involves using flat plate collectors to capture the sun’s energy, which is then converted to thermal energy. This thermal energy can be used for heating or converted to electricity.
Solar electric power, on the other hand, involves capturing the sun’s radiation through photovoltaic cells. These cells convert the sun’s radiation directly into electricity, which can be used to power homes, businesses, and other facilities.
Given Texas’ abundant sunshine, solar power can be a viable and sustainable source of energy for the state. By harnessing the power of the sun, Texans can reduce their reliance on nonrenewable energy sources, lower their energy bills, and contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable future for the state.
WHAT ARE SOLAR PANELS MADE OF
The most common solar panels are made from crystalline silicon(c-Si) that have conductive properties. They have smaller squares with blue or black rectangular grids. These little squares are the silicon solar cells that are linked together to form a circuit.
There are other thin-film solar panels designed with a semiconductor deposited on either glass or plastic.
HOW LONG DO SOLAR PANELS LAST
You might be wondering how long solar panels last if you have considered investing in them. Well, a P.V. solar module can last for up to 25 or 30 years. That means that the panels can produce at least 80% of rated power in 25-30 years!
HOW LARGE ARE SOLAR PANELS
Traditional P.V. solar panels have a 60 and 72 cell configuration with the following dimensions:
60 cell PV panels: 39″ x 65″ equivalent to 3.25 x 5.5 feet
72 cell PV panel: 39″ x 77″ equivalent to 3.25 x 6.42 feet
WHAT IS THE RIGHT SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM SIZE FOR ME
In Texas, the size of your solar energy system will depend on your energy needs, which can be determined by analyzing your monthly utility bill. Just like a phone bill, you need as much airtime as your monthly bill shows, and your solar energy system should be sized accordingly.
However, there are several other factors to consider when determining the optimal size for your solar energy system in Texas. These factors can include the orientation and tilt of your roof, shading from nearby trees or buildings, and the efficiency of the solar panels. It’s important to work with a qualified solar energy specialist who can help you navigate these factors and determine the optimal size for your system.
You can research grid-tie or off-grid solar systems in Texas on your own, but the process can be complicated. Alternatively, you can schedule a free estimate with a solar energy specialist who can provide you with personalized recommendations and help you understand the costs and benefits of going solar in Texas.
IS INVESTING IN SOLAR WORTH IT
Solar power is becoming an increasingly viable and cost-effective alternative to grid supply. In fact, in the majority of cases, the solar option is cheaper than the grid supply. This is due to several factors, including the state’s abundant sunshine, the decreasing cost of solar panels, and the availability of government incentives and tax credits.
By investing in solar energy in Texas, you can reduce your reliance on the grid and avoid the ever-increasing monthly power bills associated with grid supply. While the upfront capital cost of installing a solar energy system may be high, this cost can break even in just a few years, after which your only charges will be taxation, maintenance, and repairs. These costs are typically much lower than those associated with grid supply, providing long-term cost savings for Texas residents.
In addition to the financial benefits, going solar in Texas can also contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable future for the state. By reducing reliance on nonrenewable energy sources, Texans can help mitigate the effects of climate change and promote a healthier environment for future generations. Going solar in Texas is a smart and sustainable choice that can provide long-term cost savings and environmental benefits.
WHAT DO I NEED TO GET STARTED
To install a solar panel system, you will need several key components. Firstly, you will need solar panels that are sized appropriately for your energy needs and the available space. Secondly, you will need a mounting system to secure the panels to your roof or another suitable location. Thirdly, you will need an inverter to convert the direct current (DC) energy produced by the panels into alternating current (AC) energy that can be used in your home. Additionally, you may also need batteries to store excess energy and a monitoring system to track your energy production and usage.
A great place to start is to hire a licensed and experienced solar panel installer to ensure the system is properly installed and meets all safety and building code requirements.
HOW DO I CALCULATE SOLAR PANEL EFFICIENCY
Solar panel efficiency is a widely misunderstood concept. People assume that the 15-25% efficiency of P.V. solar panels means that the panel produces only a fraction of the rated power. In reality, the efficiency represents how much of the sun’s energy is converted to electricity.
You should go for high-efficiency panels if you have limited mounting space as they produce more power per unit area.
Smaller R.V./mobile use panels are available. Some companies are also experimenting with 96-cell solar panels, but they are not very common.
WHAT DOES NET METERING MEAN
Net metering, also known as net energy metering, is a utility resource usage and remuneration scheme whereby a consumer who harnesses their own solar power is compensated in monetary terms. If your home enjoys net metering and produces more energy than you need, you can send the extra power to the grid, so you use it when required.
ARE BATTERIES NECESSARY FOR SOLAR SYSTEMS
The need for batteries in a Texas solar system depends on the type of system installed. For grid-tied solar systems, batteries are unnecessary, but can be useful for storing excess power during peak times. Off-grid solar systems require batteries to store excess power and provide a reliable source of electricity.
WHAT’S THE BEST TYPE OF BATTERY FOR SOLAR
There are essentially three types of solar batteries; flooded lead-acid accumulators (FLA), sealed lead-acid accumulators (SLA), and lithium-ion batteries. FLA are the cheapest and the oldest but require regular maintenance for best operation. You just need to top up the battery with distilled water to account for the evaporation.
SLAs are advanced FLAs, where the battery is sealed to prevent evaporation. They are a little bit more expensive than the FLAs but do not need as much maintenance.
Lithium-ion batteries represent the best tech in batteries. These are known to charge much faster than the other two types. They also withstand deep discharge cycles and last the longest, in addition to being maintenance-free.
WHAT ARE AVAILABLE SOLAR INCENTIVES AND TAX CREDITS
The Federal Tax Credit is a significant incentive for Texas residents who are considering going solar. This tax credit provides a 30% discount on the total cost of your solar energy system after filing with the IRS.
Additionally, there may be other state incentives and credits available for Texas residents who go solar. These incentives can vary depending on state regulations, so it’s important to check with your local authorities to see what incentives you might be eligible for.
By taking advantage of these incentives, you can reduce the upfront costs of going solar and maximize the long-term financial benefits. With abundant sunshine and a growing demand for renewable energy, going solar in Texas can provide a cleaner, more sustainable future for the state and its residents.
WHAT ARE AVAILABLE SOLAR FINANCING OPTIONS
There are three popular approaches to financing a solar panel project. These are personal loans, solar leases, and solar power purchasing agreements.
A personal loan would enable you to own the system, so you can claim the federal tax incentive. The incentive would then allow you to repay the loan before the due period elapses. On the other hand, a solar lease is owned by the installer to claim the Federal Tax credit, reducing your revenue on investment.
HOW DO GRID-TIE AND OFF-GRID SOLAR COMPARE
A grid-tied solar system is ideal for homeowners as it offers some security and it is cheaper than electricity from utility companies. Grid-tied can save you money through net metering, low installation, improved efficacy rates, and equipment costs. On the other hand, an off-grid is very suitable for cabins and isolated localities but these systems cost more as they need additional batteries. You might also need to consult with installation professionals to avoid any vulnerabilities that may hinder it from performing efficiently.
DOES THE LOCAL CLIMATE EFFECT SYSTEM SIZE
P.V. solar modules convert sunlight into electricity. This means the more sunlight, the more power produced. Different areas experience different exposure times during the day. Regions near the equator experience the most extended exposure hours while Polar Regions may go without sunlight for days.
In the U.S., for example, the exposure varies between 3-6 hours. If you receive only three hours of sunlight, your system’s size would need to be twice that of a region receiving six hours of exposure to sunlight.
DOES SOLAR AFFECT THE VALUE OF MY HOME
Recent studies conducted in Texas have found that homes with solar energy systems can sell for considerably higher prices than homes without them. On average, homes with solar systems sold for 3.74% higher than homes without solar, making a significant difference depending on the value of the property.
It’s important to note that this price premium applies to solar systems that are owned by the seller, rather than solar lease systems. By owning your solar energy system in Texas, you can not only enjoy the long-term cost savings of renewable energy, but also increase the resale value of your home.
CAN YOU RUN AN ENTIRE HOUSE ON SOLAR ALONE
While it is possible to power your entire home with solar energy in Texas, it can be challenging to achieve without the right system in place. While solar panels can generate electricity during the day, they are not able to provide power 24/7, as they do not produce energy at night or during cloudy weather.
To ensure reliable access to electricity, a battery backup system is often needed in addition to solar panels. These batteries can store excess energy generated by your solar panels during the day for use at night or during periods of low sunlight conditions. A battery backup system can also provide a reliable source of electricity during power outages or other emergencies.
Without a battery backup system, homeowners in Texas would still need to rely on the grid for electricity during periods of low solar production. With the right system in place, however, it is possible to reduce reliance on the grid and enjoy the long-term financial and environmental benefits of solar energy in Texas.
DO SOLAR PANELS AFFECT HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE
Solar panels can have an impact on homeowners insurance, as they can increase the value of a property and its potential replacement cost. As a result, homeowners may need to adjust their insurance coverage to ensure adequate protection. Additionally, some insurance providers may offer discounts or incentives for homes with solar panels, as they may be viewed as less risky due to the potential for reduced electricity usage. Homeowners should consult with their insurance provider to discuss any potential impacts on their policy and ensure they have the appropriate coverage in place.
WHAT ARE THE COMPONENTS OF A PHOTOVOLTAIC (P.V.) SOLAR PANEL
Converting solar radiation to electric energy is a complex process. Photovoltaic solar panels are the root of the successful energy conversion process. But on their own, they are incapable of producing a reliable electric current. The panels require a channel of more components to make safe and usable energy:
- Photovoltaic module
This, as stated earlier, is the core element that houses solar cells. Every cell acts as a conversion unit that produces D.C. voltage when light from the sun hits it. Note that the P.V. modules can generate a voltage from any source of light, not just sunlight.
- D.C. & A.C. wiring
The Direct Current (D.C.) and Alternating Current (A.C). are responsible for switching on/off power to and from the inverter.
The solar inverter is responsible for taking D.C. from batteries and turning them to A.C.
These store electric energy chemically in renewable energy entities, also known as solar battery storage.
- Solar controllers
As its name suggests, the solar controller’s work is to regulate the current fed into the battery tank.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS AND SETBACKS OF USING PV PANELS
Solar panels are what comes into our minds when solar energy is mentioned. Here are some of their upside and downsides:
Advantages of PV Solar Panels
- They provide cheap, clean, and renewable energy.
- The maintenance costs for P.V. panels are relatively low compared to other energy sources.
- Photovoltaic systems are quiet, thus reducing the effect of environmental noise.
- Solar energy can be harnessed locally, thus reducing environmental disruptions associated with transportation.
- Solar power reduces the electricity bill as it costs you only a fraction of what you pay to the utility companies monthly.
- Solar power plants have fewer safety risks compared to fossil and coal plants.
Disadvantages of PV Solar Panels
- Photovoltaic modules produce variable energy. They cannot absorb energy during the night, and the amount of energy collected during the day also varies with weather seasons and time of the day.
- Though not significant, there’s the production of toxic chemicals like arsenic and cadmium during the production process. These pollutants cause slight environmental impacts that can be tamed through responsible disposal.
HOW DO SOLAR PHOTOVOLTAIC PANELS WORK
The solar P.V. unit houses 60 or 72 solar cells. When the cells are hit by light, electrons are scattered from the cell’s silicon atoms. The electrons then flow through the cell triggering direct currency (D.C.) electricity.
The D.C. electricity is then sent to an inverter, which then converts it to alternating current (A.C.) electricity. The A.C. electricity is the kind mostly used in offices and homes. In the case of solar power, the electricity can be used TO:
- Meet the electricity needs of a home
- Charging a battery storage unit
- Saved to the power grid for future use
WHAT TYPES OF PV PANELS CAN YOU FIND
The most available P.V. solar panels are monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film. Each has its own unique properties, and they vary in appearance, performance, and costs. For instance, monocrystalline is highly efficient, unlike Polycrystalline and thin-film, which perform inefficiently.
HOW EFFECTIVE ARE MICRO INVERTERS
Micro inverters are devices used in Photovoltaic panels to convert direct current to alternating current. They are designed with one inverter per P.V. panel, and they harness maximum power. Their design can also withstand extreme weather conditions. If any inverter goes out, the others will generate the electricity to their full capacity. It is much easier to monitor any underperforming micro inverters panel and determine the exact problem.
WHAT IS A POWER OPTIMIZER
Power optimizers are gadgets installed in a solar system to control individual panel’s output independently from the rest of the mini-grid. Unlike others like micro inverters, this gadget doesn’t convert any electricity but maximizes the power before sending it to the string inverter. This way, should one of the P.V. solar panels become shaded during a given time of day, the energy produced by the rest of the solar panels can be maximized.
WHAT DO STRING INVERTERS DO
String inverters simply convert D.C. to A.C. power for the high voltage D.C. inputs. With a string inverter, the solar array is wired in series rather than in parallel.
When several P.V. solar panels are wired to a single output through an inverter, it is called a panel string. Inverters are usually rated for a specific maximum voltage. To safeguard against overloading the inverter, you must get the ideal string size that doesn’t waste any resources.
When doing a string sizing, consider local temperature conditions and the ratings of the P.V. modules to be used.
WHERE SHOULD YOU MOUNT YOUR SOLAR PANELS
You can mount your solar panels either on the ground or on the roof. Roof mount is usually the cheaper option, especially if you do not have much ground space for such a project. Roof mount utilizes the rooftop as the support structure, so you do not have to build a foundation for mounting. You can consult your roofing company if you intend to mount an array of P.V. panels on the roof. They can then decide the best type of roofing for you.
As the term suggests, a ground mount is built on the ground as a separate metal structure to hold the solar panels. These structures are preferably aluminum, which makes such a project costlier. The advantage is easier accessibility during repairs and maintenance.
ARE POLE MOUNTS VIABLE OPTIONS
Pole mounts are still a viable option in countries experiencing icy winters. A pole mount is a tall-standing pole that raises the solar panel above the ground. The high height ensures the winter ground snow doesn’t bury the solar panels array. The poles also allow the solar panels company to tilt the panels so that snow can easily slide off. The poles may be of variable height depending on proximity to obstructions.
SOLAR TRACKERS: WHAT ARE THEY
You might have observed some solar panels tilting towards the changing position of the sun in the sky. This is done by a solar tracker to maximize exposure of the solar cells to sunlight.
But is this investment worth it? It depends on your needs. Typically, the tracking hardware costs much more than the solar panels. If space is not of much concern to you, simply investing in more solar panels is recommended.
HOW MUCH DO SOLAR INSTALLERS CHARGE
When considering solar installation in Texas, it’s important to understand that pricing can vary depending on several factors. The number of locally available qualified solar installers can impact pricing due to the law of supply and demand.
A good solar installer in Texas should not charge less than $0.75 per watt of solar power installation. On average, a 5kW solar system should cost between $3,500 and $5,500. However, pricing can vary depending on the specific needs and requirements of each individual installation.
It’s important to do your research and obtain multiple quotes from qualified solar installers in Texas to ensure you’re getting the best possible price for your solar energy system. With the right installer and system in place, going solar in Texas can provide significant long-term financial and environmental benefits.
Get a FREE QUOTE from our Semper Solaris installers.
CAN YOU INSTALL SOLAR BY YOURSELF
Definitely yes, even if you do not have any experience in it. This is because most of the components are designed to plug into dedicated ports. You should only expect to lift slightly heavy objects and tighten screws.
You can perform the above by yourself and then hire an experienced electrician to hook up to the panel for you. This way, you’ll significantly bring down the overall cost of installation. However, if you want things right from the bat, hiring an experienced solar panel installation company is the way to go!
DOES MY SOLAR REQUIRE MAINTENANCE
Keeping solar panels maintained in Texas is important to ensure they are performing at their best. While the impact of weather on solar panel performance in Texas is minimal, it’s still important to regularly clear any debris, accumulated snow, or dust from the panels to ensure maximum efficiency.
For those with FLA batteries, it’s also important to routinely monitor and top up the electrolyte levels to ensure proper functioning. Regular check-ups by professionals are also recommended to ensure your solar panels are in good condition and operating at their full potential.
Overall, maintaining your solar panels in Texas is a simple yet important task that can help ensure you’re getting the most out of your investment in renewable energy. By keeping your panels clean and well-maintained, you can maximize the long-term financial and environmental benefits of going solar in Texas.