How to Install a Solar Energy System
Solar energy systems can include active or passive elements that take advantage of sunlight for heating, cooling and ventilation. Concentrated solar power technologies like mirrors, troughs and Stirling dishes can be used to heat water or steam that powers electricity generators.
Passive solar techniques such as planting trees or using cool roofs can help counteract the urban heat island effect in which large cities have much higher temperatures than surrounding rural areas.
Solar panels transform sunlight into electricity through a process called the photovoltaic effect. Photons, or particles of light, interact with silicon atoms in the panel to free up electrons and create an electric field. The electric field funnels electrons towards conductive metal, which generates electricity. The higher the energy of the photon, the more electrons are released. In this way, solar panels produce direct current (DC) electricity.
However, DC electricity isn’t the type that powers most electrical devices, which require alternating current (AC) power. A gadget called an inverter converts DC electricity to AC electricity. The inverter may be SOLAR INVERTER a single unit that serves multiple panels, or it may be a series of microinverters installed behind each individual panel.
In addition to a single inverter, a solar system requires a panel mount and racking. The panel mount secures the panels to a roof or the ground, and the racking system allows the panels to be tilted to optimize exposure to the sun.
There are three main types of solar panels: monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin film. Mono cells consist of one solid silicon crystal; poly cells are made from many individual shards of silicon melted together; and thin-film cells involve spraying or depositing a material such as amorphous silicon or cadmium-telluride on glass or metal surfaces. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Electricity obtained from solar panels is in the form of DC (direct current). It needs to be transformed into AC for use with household appliances. This is the function of inverters. Inverters come in different shapes and sizes to meet various requirements, from small home systems to large grid solar power plants.
The most basic inverters convert DC to AC using a transformer. More advanced inverters utilize a semiconductor to achieve this, and offer more features like systematization, full control and energy efficiency. Inverters with more sophisticated circuitry can provide grid services as well.
It is important to choose an inverter based on the input DC voltage it accepts, and the load the system will be operating under. Inverters are usually specified with a peak or surge Solar Inverter Manufacturer rating and a continuous or average rating. The surge rating is typically far higher than the typical or continuous rating. For example, the inverter’s surge rating may be 2000 watts, but the typical power it will draw continuously will be only 300 watts.
Some inverters also include battery chargers. They will charge your batteries while you are consuming solar energy and will discharge them during the night. This prolongs the life of your batteries. Alternatively, you can use a separate charger or pair of batteries. Connecting two 12 Volt batteries of the same type in a parallel configuration will generate twice as many amp/hours as a single battery.
Whether you install solar panels with battery storage or add it to an existing system, solar batteries perform the same basic function: They store the energy from your rooftop solar panel array as chemical power in the daytime and then release that energy at night (and during outages) to keep your home’s appliances and devices running. The main differences are the technologies and how they’re used.
Flooded lead acid solar batteries are the cheapest, but they require routine maintenance, including checking water levels and adding water as needed. They also emit toxins and must be housed in a ventilated area. Sealed lead-acid batteries are more expensive but require less maintenance, and they’re also safer than flooded lead. They have a lower depth of discharge, however, and their lifespans are shorter than lithium ion options.
Lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) and lithium iron phosphate solar batteries are more expensive than lead-acid, but they offer higher efficiency and longer lifespans. These are more commonly used in residential solar systems because they can operate at a wider temperature range than flooded and sealed batteries. They can also handle a deeper DoD, up to 80%.
Another solar battery option is the sodium nickel chloride, or SNZ cell, which uses a proprietary technology to reduce fire risks and emissions. This is one of the newest solar battery options, and it’s a good choice for people who want to use their solar energy to help the grid during peak demand, as well as earn rebates or credits from their utility.
Solar panel installation involves assembling the panels to the mounting structure and then connecting them to the charge controller or inverter. This process also includes ensuring that the system is oriented and tilted correctly to receive maximum sunlight exposure during peak sun hours. In addition, the installer should ensure that the proper wiring is in place for safety and performance reasons.
Wiring can be done in either series or parallel, and each method has its advantages and disadvantages. In series, the voltage of each panel is added together; for example, two 12V panels wired in series will produce 24V. Parallel connections, on the other hand, keep each panel’s voltage the same. This is the preferred method for off-grid systems because it can be more dependable in mixed-light conditions.
The choice of cable material is also important, as it should be able to resist the harsh environments found in solar panel installations. Typically, solar cables are made from copper or aluminium. They are also required to meet specific electrical codes and requirements for resistance against UV light, extreme temperatures, and weather conditions. Solar wires are available in both solid and stranded forms, with the latter usually recommended for larger sizes. Stranded wires have more surface area for current flow, which increases their durability and conductivity.
It’s also important to choose the right wire gauge for each installation. Choosing a wire that’s too thin will lead to voltage drop and heat loss, which can diminish the efficiency of the solar panel array.