- Solar FAQ
Solar Frequently Asked Questions
We've complied a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ's) regarding solar electric systems. The first group of questions are geared for homeowners but will also respond to most business concerns. A separate list of questions follows that specific to business installations. Feel free to contact us if there is a specific question that you have that is not covered here or elsewhere on the web site.
Business Specific Questions
You can put a solar electric system on almost any roof type including wood, metal, cement tile , and definitely asphalt. Installation cost will vary based on the type of roof.
A solar electric system requires about 100 square feet for each kilowatt (kW). Unless your power usage is very high, most likely you will have enough roof space to accommodate a system.
The solar panel array can be designed so that it cleanly outlines any roof penetrations. Depending on a chimney's location, it may create an unacceptable shadow. Your OnPeak representative can determine during the site survey whether such shadowing will cause an impact. Generally, low profile attic exhaust vents and skylights are not a concern. Relocation of plumbing vents can often be done cost effectively to gain usable roof space and a more consistent array design.
Possibly, the site survey will indicate whether the dish presents a shading concern or is a mounting obstruction.
Not necessarily, if there is sufficient space on the roof that is not shaded, your system will be fine. Another alternative may be high efficiency panels to maximize the output of a smaller roof area. Such panels will generally be more costly. Your OnPeak representative can make appropriate recommendations when performing an on-site analysis.
The greater the amount of sunlight reaching your panels the more electricity you will produce and the more profitable your system will be. If your panels can not be optimally placed because of roof orientation to obtain the required electricity production to meet your needs, you may require a larger system. A larger system may consist of more panels or the same number of more efficient panels. In either case, the system will be more expensive. Using satellite imagery software, OnPeak can often make a determination given your roof orientation as to the whether a system will receive enough sunlight to make an investment a prudent decision. In any event, OnPeak believes an onsite visit should be made to evaluate ground conditions, roof elevations and seasonal variations that can not be captured by satellite imagery. Onsite evaluations for this purpose are done free of charge by OnPeak.
The payback for your solar electric system depends on various factors including the installed cost of your system, the price of electricity, the federal and state incentives that are of advantage to you, solar renewable energy credit prices, how much electricity you use and how much sun your panels receive. In New Jersey your payback could be as short as a seven years with an outright cash investment. After a brief analysis, an OnPeak representative will be able to approximate your payback period.
The solar electric system size you need depends on how much electricity you use and how much sun your panels receive. If your roof allows panels to be oriented optimally, your system could be smaller than your neighbors even if both of you use the exact same amount of electricity.
No, your solar electric system generation that is fed into the utility's grid will only be offset against the electric part of your bill regardless of whether it is a combined bill. In New Jersey, if your bill for the electric portion is in excess of $100 per month, your usage is probably high enough to warrant an investment in a solar electric system.
Often you can wait a few months to see what your bills will be and approximate your annual usage. Neighbors with a similar home can also be a good source of estimation if you only have one or two bills to rely upon.
Realtors often keep copies of the previous owners utility bills. That information along with a few months of your own usage can provide a good estimate of your annual usage.
Yes but within limits. New Jersey is a net meter state which allows you to offset the electricity you take from the utility grid with the amounts you generate. All the electricity you offset is done so at retail electric rates since if it were not offset that is the rate you would pay the utility for the power. Although a carryover is allowed from month to month, annually the net excess is paid out at the utilities avoided cost which is much less than the current retail rate.
Sure, but often a separate array must be created since the original system components would have been sized for a specific capacity. This is done to optimize the system's efficiency and performance which is very important for you to maximize system profitability. Additions are more common with commercial installations where significant additional capacity is added. For residential systems, often adding the panels from the start is the most cost effective option if there is any consideration of adding panels in the future.
The life of most solar electric systems are estimated at between 25 and 35 years. Panel manufacturers generally guarantee that your panels will have at least 80% of the power generating ability they had when they were first installed. The system's inverter which takes the DC electricity and converts it to AC electricity will most likely need to be replaced during the system's life. It is expected that future inverters will have higher efficiencies and the routine replacement will boost your system's AC power output.
Solar electric systems need to follow a regular maintenance schedule to keep their peak efficiency, although the schedule is nowhere as rigorous as required for most air conditioning and heating units. The owner can often perform some simple maintenance such as cleaning the panels but other routine service should be contracted to qualified personnel. Your OnPeak representative can give you an overview of the services you might need with the system you have chosen.
In 2007, New Jersey enacted legislation preventing homeowners associations from prohibiting the installation of solar collectors on certain types of residential properties. This law covers only dwellings that are not deemed community property of the association, including townhouses which have at least two sides that are unattached to any other building and for which the owner, rather than the association, is responsible for roof maintenance. In addition, the law applies specifically to systems installed on the roofs of qualifying dwellings. Presumably this means that it does not extend the same protections to ground mounted systems. A homeowners association is permitted to regulate certain aspects of a solar collectors, including the qualifications of installation personnel, collector location, concealment and size. However, any regulation that would increase the collectors' installation and maintenance cost by greater than 10%, or would prevent the system from operating at maximum efficiency, may not be enforced. Your OnPeak representative will need to work with you to determine the specifics of your situation.
Shading that occurs in the early morning or late afternoon may not be a significant concern but to generate maximum output, your panels should be shade free at other times during the day. If you want a system, you will need to either remove the shading trees or have them topped (cut down to an acceptable height). For two story homes this is often aesthetically pleasing. In the absence of pruning, heavy tree cover normally creates other concerns such as moisture accumulation and home damage from rubbing branches. Sometimes, simply removing one large branch is enough.
New Jersey law provides for the creation of solar easements to ensure that proper sunlight is available to those who operate solar-energy systems. You might have to work out the detail of such an easement with your neighbor and then have it recorded as with any other type of easement. Determining who carries the cost of initial topping and maintenance will need to be resolved but if you have a good relationship with your neighbor, issues should be few. You may need to work with your OnPeak representative to make sure everything goes smoothly.
You may be out of luck unless you have a sunny roof area such as a carport or large shed. Another alternative, if you have available land, is to mount your panels on the ground.
Most likely you can ignore them and since we'll be requesting your permits we'll either know beforehand or can find out if you'll have any concerns. Many newer panels. especially those with a black face and frame are considered aesthetically pleasing. Your neighbor will undoubtedly love them and want to get some for his roof!
Solar electric systems have become popular and municipalities are becoming more familiar with the regulatory issues associated with them. OnPeak generally handles the permitting process with all governmental agencies and will be the direct contact for the municipality which relieves you of any permitting and inspection burdens.
Most municipalities are now requiring homeowners obtain a zoning permit as a requirement to obtain in a building and electrical permit for the installation. Costs for such a permit vary but can be as high as $100 or more. Some municipalities have created ordinances that detail not only the placement of modules and their attachment but also their color and other aesthetic attributes. Some have made setbacks for ground mounts significant so general housing development homeowners can not install ground mounts even if they have significant areas of sunny yard. OnPeak can assist in the process of obtaining a permit and design the system so that it meets ordinance. Generally, zoning for a rooftop installation tends to be less involved than a ground mount (setback, fencing, and buffer vegetation, etc.).
Solar can significantly increase the value of your home in direct proportion to the amount of annual electricity savings. Take a look at our Benefits page for details.
No. The system will shut down to avoid what is called Islanding which is a safety concern. If your system were to remain operational and be feeding electricity into the grid, utility workers could be endangered. If you install an optional backup battery system, you can continue to maintain power. Another alternative is to acquire a permanent backup natural gas or propane generator with an automatic transfer switch. Ask your OnPeak representative about these options.
No. the State of New Jersey has a property tax exemption in place for solar electric systems.
Yes, even with the required mounting components, they only add a few pounds per square foot which is well below the additional capacity most residential and commercial structures can hold. Most jurisdictions now require professional engineer stamped drawings for each installation that deal with weight and wind loads.
Yes, the racks the panels mount to must be secured to the structural members of your roof. For flat roof commercial buildings, non-penetrating mounts are available.
As of 2011, residential rebates are an incentive of the past. Between budget reductions and the declining cost of installing solar, New Jersey has decided that rebates are no longer necessary to incentivize solar installations.
In New Jersey, the sun is bright in the summer but we also have high humidity levels (you can see it as haze when crossing high bridges or when in tall buildings). The moisture in the air absorbs and scatters the sunlight causing panels to be less efficient than if the air is clear. Accordingly, cool days with low humidity and bright sun in the fall and spring or other times of the year are the best weather for systems.
Yes, since photovoltaic panels utilize both direct and indirect solar radiation, scattered or diminished sunlight will still allow you to create power, although at reduced levels commensurate with the deterioration in the weather. For New Jersey, fog tends to be early in the morning when power generation is normally low.
No, when covered they will not generate electricity but since they are located in the sunniest areas of your roof, normally the snow will melt quickly and because the front face of the panels is very flat, the snow will slide right off. New Jersey normally does not have prolonged periods of snow and very cold weather so your panels should not remain covered for any significant period of time. We do not recommend manually cleaning snow off the panels because of the danger of slipping on an icy roof and the potential for damage to the panels from rigid ice and the tools you might use.
Generally not as most solar panels are guaranteed to withstand hail and designed to withstand lightning. You should discuss your specific concerns with your OnPeak representative during the site survey.
Solar panels are hermetically sealed and unless broken their interiors do not present a habitat for insects or animals. Exterior grade wiring is used in exposed locations, however, squirrels have been known to chew on module wiring. If you currently have have squirrel issues, you should discuss this with your OnPeak representative to determine whether your system will require special guarding to keep out squirrels.
As a homeowner, your tax credit of 30% is now unlimited. Prior to 2011 under ARRA, businesses received an outright grant in cash of 30% rather than being required to offset the tax credit against income, however, this program is now discontinued and businesses will require income to utilize the 30% investment tax credit.
Most likely you will have to speak with and obtain approval from your landlord. Reviewing your lease can be a preliminary step prior to taking any formal action.
Probably not since the cost to remove and reinstall the system would not be cost effective. An alternative would be to negotiate with the landlord as to whether the system could be purchased at fair market value. Yet another alternative would be panels that are ballasted on a flat roof rather than hard mounted. Such a system would be less expensive to relocate. In any event, it would be wise to speak with your landlord prior to taking any formal action.
This is a definite concern for C corporations. If the system size is significant enough to make third party ownership viable, non-profitable businesses may still be able to host a system and therefore benefit from low power prices and green marketing. In the case of S corporations, Partnerships, LLC, and LLP entities, the credit is generally a pass through to the shareholders or partners and could be used to offset taxation of income at the owner level.
Most often leases can be structure as operating or capital. If an OnPeak representative is involved in your financing, you should make them aware of your preferences.
In our responses to the above questions we have strived to be accurate to the best of our ability as solar electric system installers, however our intent is not to provide any legal, tax, or financial advice specific to your situation. You should consult with your legal, tax, and financial advisors with regard to any questions that are of concern to you. During our on-site survey and analysis we may recommend certain financing and tax strategies, however, because our knowledge of your individual circumstances is limited to what you tell us, we may not be in the best position to advise you on certain matters.
Links to Other ResourcesNew Jersey Clean Energy
New Jersey's program that promotes increased energy efficiency, supports installation of clean, renewable sources of energy, provides information to help reduce energy use, endorses climate change solutions, and offers financial incentives, programs, and services for residential and commercial customers to save energy, money, and the environment.
A great site to review just about all energy related topics including technology, energy sources, energy efficiency, and the environment.
If you're looking for information on science and technology in the renewables area including solar, this is the site for you. The laboratory is part of the U.S. Department of Energy.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is the leading national trade association for the solar energy industry. The association works to expand markets, strengthen research and development, remove market barriers and improve education and outreach for solar energy professionals. Located in Washington, D.C., SEIA was founded in 1974.
Definitions of Common Solar Terms
Our solar power glossary includes many of the common terms related to residential and commercial solar electric systems and will be frequently used in discussions with OnPeak personnel. At OnPeak, we appreciate an informed customer, understanding that knowledge breeds passion for the technology and what it means to life and the environment.
AC or Alternating Current - the electric current available from your utility and provided through the electrical outlets in your home or business. With AC current, the direction of flow is reversed at fixed intervals usually 50 or 60 cycles per second which gives rise to the common term of electricity at 50/60Hz. Generally, all appliances in a home or business are powered by alternating current. Smaller appliances such as printers and cell phones may use direct current but include a transformer (technically a rectifier) or a battery charger (also another type of rectifier, but more sophisticated) that convert the AC current to DC current.
Amorphous Semiconductor - a semiconductor that is used in some thin film solar panels. The solar cell has no crystalline structure and is produced by depositing silicon on a substrate material. Such panels are generally lower in cost but also less efficient than panels created from crystalline silicon although when thin film material is used in a flexible format it has advantages in allowing Building Integrated Photovoltaic applications (BIPV).
Angle of Incidence - otherwise known as the acceptance angle. This term refers to the ability of a panel to have only minor reductions in its power output when sunlight reaching the panel is not perpendicular to the panel's face. This characteristic of photovoltaic panels allows them to continue to generate power when direct sunlight reaches the panel at an angle.
Array - a group of photovoltaic panels connected together so that they provide one electrical output, generally to an inverter. A solar electric power system may have several arrays and the number may be determined by a variety of factors including mounting location, inverter size, and shading.
Avoided Electric Cost - represents the cost of electricity that a solar electric system owner does not have to pay to their utility because the owner's system has generated the power.
Azimuth - in fixed solar electric systems comprised of panels, the azimuth is the direction the panel front faces. In a North based azimuth system, a panel with an azimuth of 180 degrees faces due South while one that faces Southwest has an azimuth of 225 degrees. The closer your system's azimuth is to 180 degrees or due South, the more electricity it will be able to generate during the day. Tracking systems, by varying the azimuth of the panel to correspond to the sun's position during the day (as well as elevation, discussed below), can increase electricity production significantly.
Balance of System - generally considered to be all the parts of a solar electric system excluding the solar panels. These parts include wires, conduit, racking, and safety disconnects but may also include installation, design costs, land, site preparation, batteries, and operations and maintenance costs.
Battery - in the context of a solar electric system, a battery stores any extra electricity that the system generates. The stored power can be used when the solar electric system is not generating power such as at night or not generating enough power such as during cloudy periods or when the power demand of appliances exceeds the generating capacity of the system. Conceptually, in a Grid-tied system, the grid can be considered the battery, however, for grid-tied systems, an onsite battery can be used to power appliances in the event of a utility power outage. Battery systems, depending on their size, can add significant additional cost as well as complexity to the installation and its maintenance. They are generally not implemented for grid-tied installations except in locations that have a higher probably of loss of utility service. Generally, a natural gas or propane standby generator with an automatic transfer switch is the most cost effective method for homeowners and businesses to maintain power during outages.
BIPV - or Building Integrated Photovoltaics, are photovoltaic materials that are used in the construction of the exterior portions of a building, whether residential or commercial. Although normally associated with thin-film photovoltaic material, rigid panels comprised of either thin-film or crystalline silicon material, can be used in building areas such as flat or angled roofs, facades, skylights, and windows. Because certain building areas may not be optimally positioned to capture sunlight, use of BIPV in such areas will result in low efficiencies. Cost and benefit analysis is extremely important when evaluating BIPV installations and may lead to the determination that a small area of crystalline panels optimally positioned may provide equivalent power production when compared to significant areas of low efficiency flexible thin-film oriented poorly because of the design constraints of the building.
BIPV Shingles - a small footprint panel of either crystalline silicon or thin-film material that can be used in shingled roof residential or commercial installations. By providing a more traditional shingled look as opposed to panels, aesthetics are improved for installations that demand it.
Bypass Diode - a device that is connected to solar cells to protect them from thermal damage in the event that other cells in the same module experience partial or total shading, broken cells, or cell string failures.
Blocking Diode - a device that is connected to solar cells to protect them from thermal damage in systems that utilize a battery or in multiple string arrays.
Cell - or solar cell, is the individual photovoltaic component on a module and can be either, square, rectangular, or octagonal. Individual cells are soldered together to create a module.
CIGS - an acronym for copper indium gallium selenide semiconductor material used to create some thin-film solar panels. Such panels are generally lower in cost but also less efficient that panels created from crystalline silicon although when thin film material is used in a flexible format it has advantages in allowing Building Integrated Photovoltaic applications (BIPV).
DC or Direct Current - the electric current that is generally used by low voltage devices. In this current the electrons only flow in one direction. Solar cells produce direct current that must be converted using an inverter to AC (alternating current) before it can be used by household appliances. Although each solar cell produces direct current at a low voltage, when these cells are connected serially, an array of modules can have a voltage of up to 600 volts.
Diffuse Insolation - sunlight that indirectly reaches a solar cell because of its being scattered in the atmosphere from contact with clouds, haze, dust, or other materials in its path.
Direct Insolation - sunlight that is directly falling on a solar cell, generally at an angle that is perpendicular to the collector's face.
Efficiency - the ratio expressed as a percent between the electricity produced by a solar cell or module under a one sun condition to the energy that the cell or module is receiving from the sunlight striking the cell. A one sun condition is generally considered as 1,000 watts per square meter. Accordingly a module with a one meter cell surface area that produces 200 watts of power DC under a one sun condition has a module efficiency of 20% DC. This percentage is also referred to as conversion efficiency.
Elevation - in fixed solar electric systems comprised of modules, the elevation is amount of tilt of each of the modules. To optimize the amount of electricity generated by modules mounted on a flat roof, the modules will be tilted to the location's latitude in degrees. This orientation provides the best combination of low winter and high summer sun to the module. To increase module production in the summer, modules are tilted to a lower elevation, similarly, to increase module production in the winter, modules are tilted to a high elevation. Generally, modules are placed in a fixed position, however, adjustable modules are available and have the advantage of increasing power production if adjusted frequently during the year. Cost and adjustment labor are the drawbacks of such a system. Your OnPeak representative can help determine which type of a system is best for your situation. For residential roof applications, generally the roof slope is not optimal, but nevertheless will provide acceptable production.
Gigawatt - one billion watts. Capacities of large coal-fired and nuclear plants are generally expressed in gigawatts.
Grid - refers to the utility's infrastructure system of wires that distribute electricity from the generating source to your home or business.
Grid Tied - or Grid Connected describes a solar electric system that is connected to the utility's power grid.
Ground Mount - in a ground mount system, modules are mounted on the ground rather than on a roof or other structural component of a home or building. Systems that use trackers to orient the modules to face the sun are often ground mounted on a pole to maintain their position during high winds.
Interconnection - the process of connecting a solar electric system to the utilities power grid. In its simplest sense, it is the placing of the system's inverter within the flow of power between your electric meter and the wiring of your home or business. Appropriate disconnects, power quality, and other safety concerns must be addressed in the process. Most modern inverters are certified for grid-tied (grid-connected) installation.
Inverter - a component of a solar electrical system that converts the solar panel generated DC current into AC current that is suitable for your home or business appliances. For grid-tied systems, the AC current generated must be of sufficient quality to allow connection to the utility's grid. Most modern inverters are certified for such installations.
Insolation - the amount of sunlight that reaches the earth's surface in both direct and diffuse form.
Insolation Value - The term Insolation is also used to refer numerically to the amount of solar radiation per surface area for a given location on the earth's surface over the course of a year. For New Jersey, this value 1.182 kWh per kW for a panel oriented flat to the surface of the earth and 1.362 kWh per kW for a panel tilted at the location's latitude (approx 40 degrees) and facing due South. In plain language, for each watt of a solar electric system tilted at latitude in New Jersey, it is expected, on average, that 1,362 watt-hours will be generated (1.362 kWh). A 10 kW system (10,000 watts) is therefore expected to generate 13.62 megawatt-hours (13.62 mWh) over the course of a year. These values reflect DC power production from the panels. AC power production will always be less due to energy losses from the inverter.
Islanding - If a the utility power in a grid-tied system shuts down as in a blackout, the solar electric system will shut down to avoid what is called Islanding. If your system were to remain operational and be feeding electricity into the grid, utility workers could be endangered. If you install a backup battery system or a standby natural gas or propane generator, you can continue to maintain power.
Junction Box - Similar to an electrical outlet or light switch box, a junction box is used to protect connections made between wires of various modules or arrays and any other devices.
Kilowatt - one thousand watts. Capacities of solar electric systems are normally expressed in kilowatts.
Kilowatt-hour (kWh) - The amount of energy generated or produced by a 1,000 watt (or 1 kW) solar electric system over the course of one hour. This assumes a constant illumination and other conditions of the modules over the period, however, in the real world a 1,000 watt system will generate more or less than 1kWh over the course of an hour because of various conditions including the panel azimuth, elevation, shading (whether by cloud or ground obstructions), the age of panels and their cleanliness, inverter efficiencies and other losses associated with the power generation process. Accordingly, proper system sizing and maintenance is critical to your solar electric system achieving your power generation goals over the system's life.
Load - any device that draws electrical power or otherwise uses energy rather than creating it. Inverters, since they are not 100% efficient at converting DC power into AC have a load associated with them.
Maximum Power Point (MPP) - refers to the point at which the greatest power is being generated from a solar module.
Maximum Power Point Tracker (MPPT) - is generally incorporated in electric solar system inverters and optimizes the power derived from the modules to output the greatest power at all times.
Megawatt - one million watts. Capacities of large commercial and utility solar electricity systems are expressed in megawatts.
Megawatt-hour(mWh) - The amount of energy generated or produced by a 1,000,000 watt (or mW) solar electric system over the course of one hour. A smaller system can also generate an equivalent amount of energy over a longer period. For example, a 1,000 watt (or 1kW) system can generate a mWh of power over the course of a 1,000 hours.
Module - or photovoltaic panel or simply "panel" is an assembly of solar cells that are interconnected and packaged in a unit that generally has a glass covering, a frame, and a backing material of plastic, metal, or fiberglass. Modules come in a variety of sizes, shapes, efficiencies, and wattages.
Monocrystalline Panel - these cells are formed from a single, large silicon crystal that is sliced in thin layers. Because the silicon is a single crystal, the transfer of electrons within the semiconductor is very efficient which results in this type of solar cell being the most efficient when compared to polycrystalline and thin film cells.
Multicrystalline Panel - also known as a Polycrystalline Panel. These cells are similar to monocrystalline except they are manufactured from a single mass that is comprised of randomly oriented silicon crystals. Because of the various crystal boundaries in multicrystalline panels, their efficiencies are not as high as panels manufactured from moncrystalline material.
Net Meter - as opposed to a Net Meter Policy, it a physical electric meter capable of recording both the amount of electricity used from the utility's grid and the amount of electricity fed into the utility's grid from your solar electric system. Such a meter spins both forwards and backwards, the latter indicating that your system is feeding power to the grid.
Net Meter Policy - or Net Metering, is an electricity policy that allows a you receive credit (or a deduction from your electric bill) for the value of the electricity your solar electric system has fed into the utility's grid. Net metering policies vary across the nation with regard to availability of net metering, the value of the credit and when it expires. New Jersey currently maintains a net metering policy allowing credits at the retail rate with any annual excess being purchased at the utility's avoided cost rate.
Panel - or photovoltaic module or simply "module" is an assembly of solar cells that are interconnected and packaged in a unit that generally has a glass covering, a frame, and a backing material of plastic, metal, or fiberglass. Panels come in a variety of sizes, shapes, efficiencies, and wattages.
Payback - the period of time required in years to recover the cost of a solar electric system. This metric does not take into account the time value of money (present value factors) and is simply the point in future time from the system acquisition date when the sum of the financial benefits associated with a solar electric system equal its original investment. Financial benefits include: avoided electrical cost, solar renewable energy credits, renewable energy credits, rebates, carbon credits, federal and state tax credits, property tax credits, and business depreciation.
Phantom Loads - generally associated with electronic devices that draw power when they appear to be off. These include battery chargers and rectifiers (AC to DC) that power low voltage devices. Even when the appliance is off, the rectifier if plugged into a wall receptacle and continues to draw power. The simplest method to reduce phantom loads is to use surge protected power strips to turn devices completely off when not in use.
Photon - a particle of light that acts as a basic unit of energy.
PJM or PJM-GATS - PJM is the regional transmission organization that is responsible for the movement of wholesale electricity in the Northeast US including New Jersey. PJM EIS or PJM Environmental Information Services maintains a Generation Attribute Tracking System or GATS. This GATS provides reporting and tracking services for emissions data and renewable energy credits which are also known as renewable energy certificates or RECs. A REC which is solar based is termed a Solar Renewable Energy Credit or Certificate or SREC. For owners of residential and commercial solar systems in NJ, the PJM EIS - GATS platform is used to track monthly solar generation, create SRECs, and also provide for certificate trading and retirement. Your OnPeak representative can provide you with a detail explanation of how your GATS account is established, how production is recorded, certificates are created, and certificates are sold.
Photovoltaic - refers to the process of converting sunlight directly into electricity. The distinction between photovoltaic electricity production verses other sources of electricity derived from "Solar Thermal" sources is that there is a "direct" conversion of the light to electricity by photons exciting electrons in the solar cell to a higher state of energy. Solar Thermal technologies generally use sunlight to heat water or other fluids that are used to either drive a conventional generator (turbine) to generate electricity or the hot water is used in building climate control or for potable hot water.
Polycrystalline Panel - also known as a Multicrystalline Panel. These cells are similar to monocrystalline except they are manufactured from a single mass that is comprised of randomly oriented silicon crystals. Because of the various crystal boundaries in multicrystalline panels, their efficiencies are not as high as panels manufactured from moncrystalline material.
Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) - also known as a SSA or Solar Services Agreement, is a contract between the owner of solar electric system and a user of electricity produced by that system. The user hosts the system on their property, whether roof or ground mounted. Because of the limited or no capital required from a user, such agreements have become attractive to users seeking alternatives to purchasing or leasing a system. It is a relatively new concept primarily geared toward businesses with large installations as the costs associated with the legal and financial structures required to implement the agreements are significant. More recently, the PPA has become available in residential applications.
Production Meter - also termed Solar Meter. This is a meter in addition to the utility's meter or net meter. It records the amount of AC energy in kilowatt (kW) hours that the solar electric system produces. Although many inverters have integrated AC production meters, some do not meet the accuracy specification required by New Jersey for the recording of AC energy produced for the purposes of determining how many SRECs are to be issued to the system owner. Accordingly, many systems have a separate Production Meter which often looks very similar to their utility meter. NJ system owners are required to read their meter monthly and record their reading in their PJM GATS account. PJM GATS is responsible for the Solar Renewable Energy Certificate creation. In late 2012, NJ required all solar generators to begin reporting actual production. Prior to that point, certain residential systems 10kw in size or smaller were allowed to earn SRECs based upon estimated system production.
Racking - is usually metal rails that are attached to a building's roof support structure upon which the solar panels are mounted. In addition to keeping the panels securely fixed to the roof, they provide a space between the roof and panel to allow for air circulation. Without this circulation, the panels would become very hot during operation.
Semiconductor - the material used to form a solar cell is a semiconductor. The most common material is silicon.
Silicon - the material commonly used to make solar cells and computer chips.
Solar Energy - power, or the ability to do work through electricity, that is generated by the sun. Accordingly, the term is often interchanged both with Solar Power and Solar Electricity.
Solar Meter - also termed Production Meter. This is a meter in addition to the utility's meter or net meter. It records the amount of AC energy in kilowatt (kW) hours that the solar electric system produces. Although many inverters have integrated AC production meters, some do not meet the accuracy specification required by New Jersey for the recording of AC energy produced for the purposes of determining how many SRECs are to be issued to the system owner. Accordingly, many systems have a separate Production Meter which often looks very similar to their utility meter. NJ system owners are required to read their meter monthly and record their reading in their PJM GATS account. PJM GATS is responsible for the Solar Renewable Energy Certificate creation. In late 2012, NJ required all solar generators to begin reporting actual production. Prior to that point, certain residential systems 10kw in size or smaller were allowed to earn SRECs based upon estimated system production.
Solar Noon - is the point during the day when the sun appears the highest in the sky. The time of solar noon does not coincide with traditional "noon" within your time zone and depends on your position on the earth and the date.
Solar Renewable Energy Certificate/Credit or SREC - a tradeable certificate that represents all the clean energy benefits of electricity generated from a solar electric system. In NJ, each time a solar electric system generates 1,000 kWh of electricity, an SREC is issued which can then be sold or traded.
Solar Services Agreement (SSA) - also known as a PPA or Power Purchase Agreement, is a contract between the owner of solar electric system and a user of electricity produced by that system. The user hosts the system on their property, whether roof or ground mounted. Because of the limited or no capital required from a user, such agreements have become attractive to users seeking alternatives to purchasing or leasing a system. It is a relatively new concept primarily geared toward businesses with large installations as the costs associated with the legal and financial structures required to implement the agreements are significant. More recently, the PPA has become available in residential applications.
Solar Thermal - is a process of converting sunlight into heat to be used directly and in certain cases to generate electricity. Solar Thermal equipment includes solar swimming pool covers, flat plate collectors used to heat water for residential and commercial applications such as space heating and potable water, and high temperature collectors such as parabolic trough and power tower systems that heat water or other fluids that are used to drive a conventional generator (turbine) to generate electricity.
Stand-Alone - refers to a solar electric system that is not connected to the utility grid. Such a system, also known as "Off-Grid", may have a battery.
Standard Test Conditions (STC) - modules are normally tested under these conditions in a laboratory. The test is performed at approximately 77 degrees Fahrenheit with the module being illuminated at 1,000 watts per square meter using a solar spectrum based light source.
Thin-Film - generally refers to solar cell material that is thin and flexible. Common thin-film materials include amorphous and CIGS.
Thin-Film Panel - a solar panel that consists of thin-film solar cell material packaged in a unit that resembles traditional crystalline silicon panels. Often thin-film panel is used to describe the solar cell material in its flexible form and its use in BIPV applications.
Tilt - also referred to as Elevation, in fixed solar electric systems comprised of modules, the elevation is amount of tilt of each of the modules. To optimize the amount of electricity generated by modules mounted on a flat roof, the modules will be tilted to the location's latitude in degrees. This orientation provides the best combination of low winter and high summer sun to the module. To increase module production in the summer, modules are tilted to a lower elevation, similarly, to increase module production in the winter, modules are tilted to a high elevation. Generally, modules are placed in a fixed position, however, adjustable modules are available and have the advantage of increasing power production if adjusted frequently during the year. Cost and adjustment labor are the drawbacks of such a system. Your OnPeak representative can help determine which type of a system is best for your situation. For residential roof applications, generally the roof slope is not optimal, but nevertheless will provide acceptable production.
Tracker - a device upon which solar modules are mounted and which follows the face of the sun to maximize sunlight collection. It can be single-axis, where the sun is tracked from east to west, or dual-axis, where the device points the modules directly at the sun at all times. In New Jersey, a single-axis tracker can improve electricity production over a flat-oriented panel by 46% while a dual-axis tracker can improve production by 54%. Trackers require a mounting structure and are more geared toward commercial roof applications but are best implemented as a ground mount with poles or other structure.
Utility's Avoided Cost- the minimum amount per kWh an electric utility is required to pay a solar electric system owner for the net excess power that is fed into the utility grid. This amount is generally equal to the costs per kWh the electric utility calculates it avoids in not having to produce that power. In New Jersey, this amount is substantially less than the retail electric rates and is normally paid out to a system owner by the utility on an annual basis.
Watt - is a unit of electric power, or the amount of work done over a period of time. Multiplying voltage by current (amperage) gives watts.
Watts AC - the power produced after all power inefficiencies are taken into account from inverter and wiring losses. In any solar electric system, Watts AC are less than Watts DC because of these losses. SREC's earned by your system are based on AC power production.
Watts DC - module and panel capacities are often quoted in watts DC. It defines the power produced before all power inefficiencies are taken into account from inverter and wiring losses.
American Solar Energy Society (ASES)
Established in 1954, the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) is the nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the use of solar energy, energy efficiency, and other sustainable technologies in the U.S.
New Jersey Agricultural Fair Association
A State of New Jersey Department of Agriculture sponsored organization, the association's members consist of various individuals and companies who provide services to and support the agricultural fairs held in the State of New Jersey. OnPeak is one of the first organizations to join the Association with the aim of creating a new membership culture in support of environmental awareness and the ideals of organizations such as 4-H. Since 2009, OnPeak has provided educational exhibits at two fairs: Gloucester County 4-H held in July of each year and Salem County 4-H held in August of each year. Further details on these fairs can be found on our News & Events Page.
OnPeak has partnered with Sol Systems, the largest U.S. SREC aggregator.
The Company provides a number of SREC financing products that include Sol Annuity, Sol Upfront, and Sol Brokerage. To learn more about SRECs and Sol System offerings, visit our SREC Financing Options Page.