Solar Energy Basics for Commercial Retrofits: Learn How it Works
A solar energy system can be a very smart choice for your commercial facility. Solar power is clean, efficient and economical. Here are some solar basics to keep in mind as you evaluate your energy needs and plan for a commercial retrofit or upgrade.
Benefits of solar energy
- Solar energy systems are appropriate for use in almost every geographical area of the United States, especially those areas that receive large amounts of sunlight throughout the year. Even areas that have frequent rainy and cloudy days can still benefit from solar power.
- Sunshine, the fundamental component of solar power, is readily available in unlimited amounts. After installing solar components at your commercial facility, maintenance needs are few and the source of the system’s energy is free.
- Solar basics provide low-cost energy for your commercial facility. Monthly savings on electrical energy will be substantial, enough to let you recover the cost of a solar energy system through savings alone in just a few years.
- Solar power makes you less dependent on the local electrical grid for your energy needs. You won’t be affected by fluctuations in prices of electricity or fossil fuels. If your facility produces more energy than needed, the excess can be sold to the electric company.
- The use of solar power systems lowers stress on the local utility companies and, in the long run, helps reduce the pollution and environmental hazards associated with large-scale energy generation.
Solar basics and system function
In brief, here’s how a solar power system works to generate energy for your business facility:
- Solar panels are placed on the roof of your facility or on a nearby building or other structure. These panels contain the photovoltaic solar cells that absorb sunlight that gets converted to electrical energy.
- As sunshine falls on the panels, the solar cells convert the sunlight into DC (direct current) power.
- The DC power is transported to an inverter, a device that converts the DC power to AC (alternating current) power. AC power is the standard type of electricity used by most all homes, businesses and commercial facilities.
- AC power flow is monitored by an energy meter. The meter tracks power generation and usage. The meter can also handle the return of excess electricity to the power grid. In most cases, this extra power will be transferred to the electrical utility company and will produce a credit on your electric bill.
Keep in mind that factors such as local landscape, season, local weather and climate, and your geographic location can affect the efficiency of your solar power system. Take these solar basics into account when planning your solar installation.
Connection to the local power grid
Even if your solar power system produces plenty of energy, you’ll still need to maintain a connection to the local electrical power grid. This is necessary for two reasons:
- The connection to the grid is needed for sending excess energy to the electric company so that you receive proper payment or credits.
- Unless you have the proper equipment for storing any excess energy your solar system produces, you’ll need to maintain a connection to the electrical grid to ensure a supply of power at night or when your solar system cannot receive enough sunshine to produce power.
Comply with local codes and ordinances
When planning the installation of your solar power system, make sure the system will comply with all applicable codes and regulations, such as local building and electrical codes, utility service requirements, easements and other local ordinances. Contact your state energy office, local renewable energy organization or local building and construction officials for details on compliance.
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