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Solar Energy 101

Tap into this cost-effective, endless supply of energy to power your home. Solar panels are the most common way to harvest solar power.

Solar panels on a roof

Solar Energy Q&A

How long has solar power been used?
Solar power has been used since the beginning of time. The Greeks and the Chinese oriented buildings to the south, for light and warmth, in order to maximize passive solar energy. Active solar energy, using devices like photovoltaic panels and solar thermal collectors, became popular around 1860 when scientists first suspected that fossil fuels would soon become scarce.

What is a solar panel?
A solar panel consists of a collection of solar cells that use light energy from the sun to generate electricity.

How does solar energy work?
Solar panels should be installed on a sunny, south-facing roof, ground, or pole mount. The solar panels will convert sunlight to DC energy — the kind of energy batteries use. DC energy will then convert to AC energy, the kind of energy home appliances use, through a large inverter box attached to the building near the electric meter. And then solar power will feed your home through your service panel. When you generate excess electricity, it will flow to the utility grid, making your electric meter run backwards.

What are the cost benefits of solar energy?
Federal, state, and local incentives combine to reduce cost by as much as 50% in some locations. This includes a federal tax credit of 30% for those who choose to use green energy. Furthermore, the cost of solar power always remains the same, whereas electricity rates are subject to variable increases.

How can solar energy be used?
Solar energy can be used to power home appliances, computers, televisions, and even heat and cool your home.

Is solar energy right for me?
Here are five questions to ask yourself in order to determine if solar energy is the right option for you.

  1. Do you own your home?
  2. If you are a member of a Home Owners Association, does it allow for solar panels to be installed?
  3. Is your average electric bill (not including gas) over $100 a month?
  4. Do you have 300 square feet of sunny, open, south-facing roof space?
  5. Do you expect your roof to last for at least five years?

If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, then solar energy is the right option for you.