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Want To Learn More About Solar?
Why do people go solar?
People choose to go solar for a number of different reasons. Some people simply want to save money, are concerned about the rising cost of electricity, or want to shave their peak demand charges. Others want to reduce their environmental footprint, demonstrate their sustainability, or need power in a remote location. Whatever the reason, harnessing the sun’s power is becoming a more popular and affordable source of clean renewable energy.
Do we get enough sunshine for solar in Southern Alberta?
Yes we do! Historical solar radiation data provided by the Government of Alberta’s Agriculture and Rural Development indicates that Southern Alberta is a prime region for PV solar installations. Systems installed in this region will have the highest performance rates in Alberta.
How important is module efficiency?
Occasionally we hear people complain that solar isn’t worth it because “modules are only 15-20% efficient.” And that’s true. They are. Solar modules can only convert 15-20% of the free sunlight that’s available every day. What they fail to realize is that this measure of ‘efficiency’ doesn’t matter. What matters is output, and module output is measured in Watts.
The average solar module output ranges from 250W – 350W (Watts). We commonly install 260W modules on residential homes, as it provides the best cost per watt for our customers. Commercial applications are in the 310W - 315W range. Higher wattage modules are more expensive but space constraints or production needs may warrant the added cost.
Solar modules are rated either Tier 1, 2 or 3. Tier 1 modules are provided by the largest solar module manufacturers in the world. These corporations provide the highest quality product and warranty service due to their financial stability. Solar Optix recommends only installing Tier 1 modules.
String Inverters vs. Micro-Inverters
Grid tied systems are installed using either micro inverters, string inverters or a hybrid called optimization. Solar modules produce DC current similar to a battery but your home requires AC current. Micro inverters are mounted under each solar module and make this conversion right on the roof. A string inverter gathers all of the DC current from each group or "string" of modules in one central location (typically on an outside wall or by your AC panel) and makes the conversion there.
The hybrid system with optimization consists of a central inverter but uses optimizers behind each module to increase each modules output. They do this by monitoring each modules performance on a continual basis. In addition, both micro-inverters and optimizers turn the system off in the event of an electrical grid failure to comply with anti islanding legislation This is in place to protect utility workers from electrical shock while working on downed power lines.
What does Net Billing mean?
Net billing occurs when a customer has installed a solar system. When a new system is installed, wire service providers in Alberta will change out your meter at no cost. A bi-directional meter is put in which allows for ‘net billing’ to occur. This method compensates electricity consumers who use electricity produced by their PV solar system over a certain period of time. The meter keeps track of the energy your system produces which isn’t used within your home or business and therefore goes to the grid. It also keeps track of what you draw from the grid either after sundown or in the winter when your system is not producing as much. When a system generates more power than it uses, customers receive a credit from their retailer. When you draw from the system you pay for your electricity as an Energy Charge. Credits are obviously much higher in the summer than in the winter.
With a net zero system, the credits you receive in the summer should cover what you pay in the winter months – hence, net zero is achieved.
What is Net Zero?
Net zero refers to a PV solar system that will produce as much energy as is used over the course of a year. A common misconception about net zero is that it means you never pay. Not true – During our sunny months consumers receive credit for the power that goes out to the grid, during the darker months with less sunshine, consumers pay for the excess they draw that their system wasn’t able to produce, for example: in the evening when the sun is not powering your modules. Over the course of a year a net zero system averages out, in other words your credits = your debits.
How do off-grid solar systems work?
Off grid systems require a battery bank to store the excess power that’s produced. These systems can be enhanced with an optional generator backup to ensure adequate power loads are met if required at night or during days of excessive cloud cover. Off grid solar systems are typically installed in remote locations where the cost of installing utility power is prohibitive. They are an excellent choice for weekend cabins, lodges, or remote monitoring stations. Examples of remote monitoring stations include: telecommunications, oil and gas, natural resources, and weather stations.
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