How Solar Panels Work

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How solar energy works

Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels convert sunlight into electricity. The solar panels are usually connected to the utilities’ electric grid and directly power your home, which allows you to pull less or, during certain times, sell electricity to your utility. Net Energy Metering (NEM) allows you to sell electricity back to the utility when your solar energy production exceeds your home’s use. In this event, you can watch your electric meter spin backwards giving you a 1-to-1 energy credit equal to the cost of purchasing one-kilowatt from the utility.

Battery backup systems and going “off the grid” are both costly and largely unnecessary for most homeowners. Suitable applications we recommend are for emergency backup power.

What is the main solar equipment used?

When you install solar panels with Sunbridge Solar, we make sure to source solar equipment from local Washington and Oregon companies to the best of our capabilities. The main solar components are;

  • Solar Panel Array – sourced from WA and OR
  • Solar Energy Converter // Inverter – sourced within USA
  • Mounting // Racking System – sourced within USA
  • Production Meter – sourced within USA
  • Net Energy Meter – sourced within USA
  • Online Solar Monitoring – sourced within USA

Scroll below to see how each component of a solar photovoltaic (PV) system works.

The Solar Panel Array

A solar panel array is a collection of solar panels wired together. The solar panels are comprised of solar cells. When a photon from the sun interacts with the cell, an electron is knocked loose. Electrons begin to flow from one side of the cell to the other. This flow of electrons is electricity.

The electrons travel along conductors that connect the solar cells together, making a solar panel. Individual panels (or modules) are connected together in either series or parallel connections. This is called a “string.” All combined, this is considered a solar array.

At this point, direct current or DC energy is being produced.

The Solar Energy Converter // Solar Inverter

From the solar array, the wires travel down conduit and land connections at the solar inverter. Sometimes these inverters are located on the roof underneath your panel. The inverter is what converts DC energy that is produced from your solar array into usable, alternating current (AC Energy).

There are two types of solar inverters; 1) Microinverters, and 2) String Inverters. String inverters convert the energy from strings of solar panels. Microinverters are smaller and attach to each solar panel in the PV array.

In many cases, we recommend microinverters over string inverters because they provide panel-level solar monitoring and have 25-year warranties; string inverters are warrantied for 10 years.

The Solar Energy Converter // Solar Inverter

From the solar array, the wires travel down conduit and land connections at the solar inverter. Sometimes these inverters are located on the roof underneath your panel. The inverter is what converts DC energy that is produced from your solar array into usable, alternating current (AC Energy).

There are two types of solar inverters; 1) Microinverters, and 2) String Inverters. String inverters convert the energy from strings of solar panels. Microinverters are smaller and attach to each solar panel in the PV array.

In many cases, we recommend microinverters over string inverters because they provide panel-level solar monitoring and have 25-year warranties; string inverters are warrantied for 10 years.

Solar Mounting // Racking System

The mounting, or racking, system is the ‘glue’ that holds your solar array and microinverters in place.

Depending of aesthetics tastes, the consumer may choose between silver or black mounting systems.

Solar Production Meter

From the solar inverter, AC energy passes onto a production meter. The production meter calculates your gross AC solar energy production. Most Oregon utilities do not require this meter. In Washington, this meter is necessary to have in order to receive certain state cash incentives.

The number of this meter only increases because it is the gross number of solar kilowatts generated from your system.

Solar Production Meter

From the solar inverter, AC energy passes onto a production meter. The production meter calculates your gross AC solar energy production. Most Oregon utilities do not require this meter. In Washington, this meter is necessary to have in order to receive certain state cash incentives.

The number of this meter only increases because it is the gross number of solar kilowatts generated from your system.

Net Energy Metering (NEM)

Net Energy Metering, or NEM, is a billing system that credits you for any excess solar electricity you create at the full retail electric rate. 

When you are producing more solar energy than your home needs your utility allows your meter to run backwards generating credits and reducing your electric bill. Credits tend to build up quickly in Oregon and Washington’s sunny summer months and “cashed-in” during the less-sunny months.

24/7 Online Solar Panel Monitoring

Every Sunbridge Solar customer will receive the ability to track their solar production online. You will be able to view your solar array at the solar panel level. View by the minute to lifetime. Protect your investment!

24/7 Online Solar Monitoring

Every Sunbridge Solar customer will receive the ability to track their solar production online. You will be able to view your solar array at the solar panel level. View by the minute to lifetime. Protect your investment!

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