Making Solar Work For You
A quick primer on solar photovoltaics, fitting the pieces together, and why solar is a great option for communities across the Pacific Northwest.
What is Solar PV?
Solar photovoltaic (PV) technology uses the sun's rays to produce power for your home or business. A solar module is a series of silicon cells that work together to transform sunlight into electricity. A linked collection of solar modules comprises a solar array. Other important solar system components are the inverter, production meter, and net billing meter.
Most solar arrays are grid-tied, which means that any excess electricity production is fed back into the utility grid. The size of a solar array depends on a variety of factors, including electricity load, available roof space, roof shading, roof orientation, and project budget. A solar array can be sized to produce 100% of your electricity needs, or simply to supplement conventional utility electricity.
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How Does Solar Work?
When the sun shines on a solar PV array, it produces direct current (DC) power. This DC power flows through an inverter, which “translates” it to the alternating current (AC) power used in your home. The AC power passes from the inverter to the production meter, which measures every kilowatt-hour of electricity produced by your solar system. The electricity then flows through your breaker box and goes to power your home’s current electricity load.
If your solar system is producing more electricity than you need at any given moment, the excess production will flow to the grid through the utility billing meter, which measures your home’s net usage. The billing meter will credit your utility account when you push electricity into the grid, and deduct from your account when you pull electricity from the grid.
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Why Solar in the Northwest?
Despite our cloudy reputation, we actually get plenty of solar resource to power our everyday lives. The Puget Sound area alone receives 15% more annual solar resource than Germany—the world's leader in installed solar capacity. Solar PV provides a clean, renewable means to light our homes, run our appliances, and even drive our cars!
Northwest Solar Communities endeavors to help jurisdictions and utilities streamline and standardize solar permitting, interconnection, financing, and codes to make solar simpler, faster, and more cost effective for all.