Solar photovoltaic (PV) cells convert sunlight directly into electricity. PV gets its name from the process of converting light (photons) into electricity (voltage). Each solar panel holds about 60 cells, but new technology is improving efficiency and many panels now contain XX cells. In the northern hemisphere, solar panels are typically mounted at a fixed angle facing south so they can capture the maximum amount of sunlight. When multiple solar panels are combined, the system they create is called a solar array.
Traditional PV solar cells are made from silicon. Silicon cell panels are generally the most efficient and have a life expectancy of over 30 years. Second-generation solar cells, called thin-film solar cells because they’re made from amorphous silicon or non-silicon materials such as cadmium telluride, use layers of semiconductor materials only a few micrometers thick, so they can be applied in more flexible building environments.
This picture depicts how a PV system works on a building. Solar panels on the roof capture solar energy, which is then collected and packaged through a combiner. The energy is then changed from direct current (DC) power to alternating current (AC) power via an inverter.
If the power generated by the solar array is not consumed on site, electricity is fed into the electrical grid and assigned a dollar value through the process of net metering. The power is sent through the utility grade revenue meter, which calculates the value of electricity introduced to the grid from the solar panels, to the main electrical grid. Along the way, it passes through safety switches (disconnects) and a monitoring system which tracks the accumulation of SRECs or DG Contracts for later sale back to the utility. The orange line in the picture above shows the path of energy supplied from the sun. The blue line shows electricity supplied by the utility through the grid. The green line shows the electricity being sold back to the utility grid via net metering. Read Net Metering 101
We’ll look at all relevant factors to help you make that determination. First, we’ll work with you to detail your energy needs and financial goals. Then, we’ll complete a free solar feasibility assessment of your property. For a building installation, we’ll examine structural integrity, roof orientation, shading impact, and any other pertinent issues. For a ground installation, we’ll consider the total available acreage, the presence of trees and other foliage that may need to be cleared, the geology and topography of the area, the proximity to phase-III power, and local zoning restrictions. Finally, we’ll model the project’s economics and expected ROI, and make recommendations for your unique circumstances. If solar energy won’t achieve your business goals, we won’t recommend it. Explore our Development services.
Design & Installation
A structural engineer will conduct an on-site evaluation of your roof to determine its weight load and verify that it’s capable of supporting a solar PV system. Our calculations account for the weight of panels and mounting hardware plus the weight of anticipated snow load to ensure that adding solar to your roof will not jeopardize its structural integrity.
The specific permits required for your project will vary based on the type of installation and your local and state regulations. During the development process, our team will determine which permits are required and complete all steps necessary to ensure they’re issued prior to any related scheduled work.
After the electric utility approves the project for interconnection, it generally takes two months to complete a 50-250kw system, three months for a 250-500kw system, and potentially longer for systems larger than 500kW. If you’re considering a solar PV system for your business, you should start the Interconnection Application process as soon as possible. This will allow the project to proceed as planned and expedite the overall timeline of getting your solar PV system connected to the grid.
Our expert design specialists will determine the size of your solar PV system based on your energy use and the size of your property. We’ll require a copy of your electric bill to evaluate your annual and average monthly electricity consumption. We’ll also take into consideration the available square footage of your property to determine how many panels we can install.
Financing & Incentives
As an authorized SREC aggregator, Solect will manage your SRECs and notify you of any updates or changes to the SREC production associated with your system.
SRECs are sold and minted on a quarterly basis.
An SREC is a Solar Renewable Energy Certificate. In Massachusetts, the Green Communities Act of 2008 requires utilities in the state to generate at least 15% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. One way they can meet this requirement is by purchasing SRECs from solar PV system owners. SREC values are determined by fundamental supply and demand dynamics in the marketplace. One SREC equals 1000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity produced and can range in value from $250 to $385.
Rebates and incentives vary by state, but most have some type of solar incentive program in place. State incentives include SRECs, net-metering, sales tax exemptions, and more. The federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is in place at current levels until the end of 2019, and you can also accelerate depreciation on a solar purchase.
A PPA is a Power Purchase Agreement. It’s a financing model in which the solar installation company – in this case Solect – or a third-party investor would build and own the solar PV system on your property and then sell you the electricity generated at a pre-negotiated, discounted rate. The owner of the system is able to take advantage of all tax incentives, Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) revenue, and other benefits related to owning the system. Hosting a solar PV system and purchasing the power through a PPA is an excellent way for entities such as schools and non-profits to benefit from solar energy without using capital to purchase a system outright.
There are multiple financial options available, including direct ownership, a capital or operating lease, a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), a rooftop lease, and community solar. We’ll work with you to determine the best financial solution based on your specific needs and goals.
Solar Panels & Inverters
We typically use solar panels manufactured from a variety of countries, including the U.S., Germany, China, and Korea. Regardless of their country of origin, we only ever use solar panels made by the most reputable Tier 1 manufacturers. If domestic sourcing is important to your business, you can specifically request that we install solar panels made in the U.S.
Inverters must be installed near the electrical box on a cement pad. Depending on the installation, however, they can be installed inside or outside the building.
An inverter is an electronic device that converts electricity from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). Solar panels generate electricity in DC, but homes and businesses generally run on AC, which is the type power plants generate and distribute. The inverters in a solar PV system transform the electricity created by the PV panels into a more usable form.
In order to achieve maximum efficiency, it’s important to regularly clean and maintain your solar panels. We can help you keep your array operating at optimal capacity.
Depending on the structure of your roof, there are a few different mounting options. Our design specialists will work with you during the feasibility assessment and design stages to select the mounting hardware that makes the most sense for your system.
Most solar panels weigh about 40 pounds That means, for pitched roofs, solar panels add about 2.8 pounds per square foot. For flat roofs, they add about five pounds per square foot.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels range in size. The panels we typically use are approximately 3’x5′ and 1.5″ thick.
We provide a one-year workmanship warranty. The manufacturers that supply our panels and inverters offer their own equipment warranties, some of which cover up to 10 years.
We are a full-service solar photovoltaic (PV) project developer based in Hopkinton, MA. We pride ourselves on our practical, relationship-focused approach. We own solar PV systems ourselves, so we know what it’s like to go through the financial and installation process. That familiarity allows us to assess and deploy your project with a complete understanding of your point of view. When you choose to work with us, you get a complete turnkey solution that includes feasibility assessments, financial and incentive modeling, financing options, regulatory expertise, design and engineering, installation, and on-going management and maintenance.