Fact: In a surprising number of instances, solar electricity (Photovoltaics) can be a cost-effective source or form of power. Uses can include pumping water, powering communications equipment, lighting homes, and running ventilation fans, swamp coolers, televisions, blenders, stereos, and other appliances.

  • Get free fuel from the sun.

  • Produce electricity without pollution.

  • Design a cost-effective system.

  • Position your solar cell for maximum performance.

  • Locate a supplier.

  • Learn about building materials integrated with solar cells.

Best Features: Photovoltaic (PV) solar cells are based on semiconductor technology (similar to the microchip), which converts light energy directly into electricity that can either be used immediately or stored, such as in a battery, for later use. Although early versions of this technology converted only 1-2% of sunlight energy into electric energy, today's solar electricity devices convert 7-17% of light energy into electric energy. Solar electricity panels and modules are very versatile and can be mounted in a variety of sizes and applications, for example, on the roof or awning of a building, on roadside emergency phones, or as very large arrays consisting of multiple panels or modules. The best features to focus on when choosing a PV system include...

  • Location: Ensure southern exposure between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. (U.S. installations).

  • Shade potential in winter and summer: Make sure the southern exposure location is free of obstructions--such as trees, mountains, and buildings--that might shade the PV modules.

  • Terrain: Choose a flat grassy site with enough space for installation.

  • Components for the application: Because PV systems are often designed for a specific site, one company's products may not be appropriate for all applications.


Save Money: If you are thinking of generating your own electricity, you should consider a solar electricity system--a way to generate electricity by using energy from the sun. In many instances, these systems have low construction costs. Since solar electricity systems are usually placed close to where the electricity is used, they require much shorter power lines than if power is brought in from the utility grid. Less wiring means lower costs and shorter construction time. Other money-saving advantages include...

  • Use of free fuel--the sun.

  • Low maintenance requirements--virtually no moving parts.

  • Low operating costs.

  • Modularity and flexibility: The owners of PV systems can enlarge or move them if their energy needs change.

  • Simplicity: They come prepackaged, ready to be mounted and wired.

  • Versatility: PV systems come in a range of sizes and outputs. They can be designed for portability, allowing for easy and safe transportation across any terrain.

Find It: Choosing a solar electricity professional will be one of your most important decisions. Reliance on a competent dealer will free you of the need to know all the details of designing, purchasing, and installing your solar electricity system. The following recommendations provide some basic criteria in selecting your solar electricity professional:

  • Review the dealer's credentials--a clear indication of knowledge and qualifications.

  • Ask about the dealer's experience in the field--length of time in business, applications and installations similar to your needs, and so forth.

  • Arrange to see installations the dealer has sold, and talk with owners about systems similar to the one you want to purchase.

  • Call the local Better Business Bureau to see if any customers have registered complaints about the dealer.

  • Consider the variety and quality of products offered for each component of the system.

  • Competent dealers will stock components manufactured by several companies. A variety of product options will help ensure that the most appropriate components are available for your system.

  • Take into account the service agreements and performance guarantees.

  • Compare prices from different dealers.

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