How Do Photovoltaic Systems Work?

A photovoltaic cell, commonly called a solar cell or PV, is the technology used to convert solar energy directly into electrical power. A PV cell usually is made from silicon alloys. Each cell varies in size from half an inch to 4 inches across, and each produce 1 to 2 watts of electricity.

Solar Energy
Sunlight is composed of photons, or particles of solar energy. Photons contain various amounts of energy. When they strike a PV cell, they provide energy to generate electricity. When enough energy is absorbed by the material, electrons are dislodged from the material’s atoms. Special treatment of the material surface during manufacturing makes the front surface of the cell more receptive to free electrons, so the electrons naturally migrate to the surface.

The Flow of Electricity
When many electrons, each carrying a negative charge, travel towards the front surface of the cell, the resulting imbalance between the cell’s front and back surfaces creates a voltage potential like the negative and positive terminals of a battery. When the two surfaces are connected through an external load, such as an appliance, electricity flows.

To increase power output, cells are electronically connected into a packaged weather-tight module. Modules can be further connected to form an array. The number of modules connected together in an array depends on the amount of power needed.

Converting the Power
The simplest PV systems power many of the small calculators and wrists watches used every day. More complicated systems provide electricity to power homes, businesses and utilities.

PV cells, like batteries, generate direct current (DC), which generally is used for small loads such as electronic equipment. When DC from photovoltaic cells is used for commercial applications or sold to electric utilities for the electric grid, it must be converted to alternating current (AC). Inverters convert DC power to AC. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Why Solar?

Solar photoelectric panels have never been more affordable.
The price of solar panels has dropped dramatically and you can still take advantage of significant federal incentives, bringing down the price of a solar PV system. Most solar projects have a return on your investment in five to ten years while your panels typically last for 30 years or more. This gives you peace of mind on your investment.

If the environment is a priority for you, solar photovoltaic systems are as green as it gets!
Every drop of energy generated by your solar PV system replaces energy that might otherwise come from burning fossil fuels. When there’s a solar spill, it’s called a sunny day!

Solar PV systems help the U.S. economy.
Solar PV systems provide great careers for thousands of American workers. In fact, more Americans today work in the solar industry than in the coal industry. We use only our local labor force and use American made solar panels and inverters.

Why rent when you can buy?

We all know it makes more financial sense to buy your home rather than rent it, and the same is true for buying your electricity. Instead of waiting for the next electricity rate hike, invest in a home solar power system and lock in your rate.

Why should I buy versus leasing?

With a lease, the homeowner has no or little up-front cost and could have a slightly lower monthly utility bill. Leases typically have an escalation in rates so you are betting that these rate increases will be lower than utility rates over time. The leasing company now becomes your second utility because you still will have the utility hookup fee and maybe some extra power usage charges. When leasing your solar system, know that you are locking into a contract for twenty to twenty five years and will have a lien on your mortgage. If you want to sell your home, you will need to have the new owners willing to take over your lease or pay to have your panels removed. Purchasing your solar from Bombard generally has homeowners experiencing a five to ten year payback from their utility savings.

How much does a solar electric system cost?

The cost of your solar PV system will vary greatly depending on your energy needs, the size of the system, and the location of the system on your home or business, and available incentives.

What incentives are available?

A 30 percent federal tax credit is available for residential and commercial solar PV systems. This is not a deduction in your taxable income, but a check back to you against the taxes you paid the federal government throughout the year. There may be other utility rebates or local incentives as well. Additionally, commercial solar PV systems may qualify for the five-year properties Modified Accelerated Cost-Recovery System (MACRS). Check with your financial or tax adviser for your individual details.

Source: DSIRE Database of State Incentives for Renewable & Efficiency

Do I get paid for my extra energy production?

Through a process called Net-Metering you can offset the electricity your home consumes with the electricity produced by your solar PV system. Net-Metering allows you to build credits during the day that can be used at night. Seasonally you can build credits in the fall, winter and spring that can be used in the summer. You cannot receive a payment from the electric utility for these credits, but you can eliminate most of the charges for electricity from your bill.

What are Portfolio Energy Credits?

The RPS (Nevada’s Renewable Portfolio Standard) is tracked through a system of portfolio energy credits (“PECs”) which can be defined as a credit that is earned through energy produced or saved from a renewable energy system or energy efficiency measure. These credits are issued to any eligible renewable energy producer as defined in NRS 704.7811. These credits may be sold to electric utilities seeking to meet their RPS. For example, a renewable energy system installed at a residence (without receiving an incentive provided by one of the renewable energy programs codified in NRS Chapter 701B) is eligible to register and sell the PECs associated with the energy it generates.

Source: Public Utility Commission of Nevada (PUCN) New PEC Application process effective June 16, 2014.

How do I read my Net-Metering utility bill?

The electric utility uses different billing categories to determine how much energy you sent back to utility (KWHR) versus how much energy you received from the utility (KWHD). The difference of these two categories will determine how much money you owe the utility each billing period (KWHN) or how many credits you have accumulated (KWHA). If you accepted a rebate from the utility to build your solar PV system, the KWHG category will list the total production of the system (current) and the billing month’s total production (billing usage). See NV Energy for more information.

Can my electric bill really be $0?

The goal of a solar system design is to produce as much power as consumed each month, bringing net electricity costs to $0. However, there is still a minimal connection fee (typically under $15 per month) to remain connected to the electrical grid.

What incentives are available to me?

Bombard RE solar systems are eligible for a 30% federal tax credit. Additional utility incentives can further lower the net cost of your investment.

Can I install solar panels myself?

It is not recommended. The process requires both licensed electrical and roofing skills to ensure the solar power system is safe and optimally designed for 25+ years of production.

Does a solar PV system require permits?

Yes. Bombard will handle all the paperwork from start until completion to make the process quick and easy.

How does a solar system affect my roof integrity?

With proper design and installation following industry best practices, your roof should maintain all its pre-solar integrity. Bombard’s certified PV installers have the experience and training so that you can rest easy knowing that your roof will be in good shape for years to come.

Can my HOA or neighbors prevent me from installing a solar system?

Nevada’s solar access law provides protection against restrictions that can be imposed on you. “A governing body shall not adopt an ordinance, regulation or plan or take any other action that prohibits or unreasonably restricts or has the effect of prohibiting or unreasonably restricting the owner of real property from using a system for obtaining solar energy on his or her property.” (NRS 278.0208)

How much maintenance does a solar system need?

With no moving parts and at least a 30-year expected life-span, solar panels require very little maintenance. In fact, their design ensures that they remain relatively clean as long as they are exposed to the rain even with the amount we receive in southern Nevada.

Can a solar PV system be insured?

While Bombard does warranty the entire system for five years, we do not cover damage from external sources or theft. However, most homeowner insurance policies will cover your solar panels in these cases. Check with your insurance provider for specific coverage questions.

I don’t plan on being in my home for 25 years. Why would I add solar?

Even if you move before your solar investment is completely paid off, studies show the cost will likely be returned in added value to your home. Plus, your home will most likely sell faster. Who doesn’t want a home with a guaranteed low electric bill? Our warranty is even transferable one time to a new owner.

How do solar systems fair in extreme weather conditions?

Solar panels designed to withstand high winds, heat and cold. In fact, the panels we use are rated higher than any other solar panels under UL standards.

Will my system still generate power during a blackout?

For the safety of workers attempting to fix power outages, solar PV systems that are connected to the electric utility are required by utility regulations to shut off during a power failure. Bombard can provide inverters that feature an Auxiliary Emergency Outlet at the inverter. This means that in the case of an outage, a residential solar PV system could still output electricity from the solar panels, as long as there is sunlight.

Can I take my home off the electrical grid?

Yes, provided you install optional battery-backup systems to provide power when your demands exceed your production, such as at night. While a Bombard consultant can help you install such a system, it is not typically recommended for several reasons. First, batteries add significant costs to your system, extending your payback period. Second, you may not be eligible for some incentives if you do not connect your system to your utility beside our local power supply remains stable and a battery back-up is not needed.

Can a solar PV system heat my pool?

Most swimming pools are heated by natural gas or solar thermal panels, so solar electric power will not be able to assist in heating outdoor swimming pools. Your pool’s electric pool pump’s power would be offset with a solar PV system just like all the other electrical appliances in your home.

What do I need to do to get a proposal for my home?

It’s easy! All your Bombard consultant needs are your first two pages of your power bill. We will then design a system using a satellite program to determine your roof space and orientation. We will discuss the benefits of solar and how it works for you. We offer turnkey products, as Bombard Renewable Energy will take care of design, procurement and installation of a renewable system all in one place. Whether it is a commercial, residential, utility or non-profit project, all you have to do is turn it on, sit back and watch your energy costs go down while helping the environment.