Solar Energy Frequently Asked Questions
For more information on renewable energy, please visit the U.S. Department of Energy or GreenEnergyOhio.org

Why is energy efficiency important? 
A. Energy efficiency means using less energy to accomplish the same task.  The more efficent use of energy throughout our country results in less money spent on energy by homeowners, schools, government agencies, businesses, and industries.  The money that would have been spent on energy can instead be spent on consumer goods, education, services, and products. 

What are the benefits of renewable energy systems?
A. Renewable energy sources are clean and inexhaustible.  The money spent on renewable energy installation tends to remain in the community, creating jobs and fueling local economics.  The use of renewable energy equipment also reduces our dependance on foreign and/or centralized sources of energy, and is an important strategy in the process of creating a truly secure and sustainable energy future. 

How do we get electricity from the sun?

When semiconducting materials, such as silicon, are exposed to sunlight, they release small amounts of electricity. This process is known as the photoelectric effect.  The photoelectric effect refers to the emission of electrons from the surface of a metal in response to light.  It is the basic physical process in which a solar electric or photovoltaic (PV) cell converts sunlight to electricity.
     Sunlight is made up of photons, or particles of solar energy.  Photons contain various amounts of energy, corresponding to the different wavelengths of the solar spectrum.  When photons strike a PV cell, they may be reflected or absorbed, or they may pass right through.  Only the absorbed photons generate electricity. When this happens, the energy of the photon is transferred to an electron in an atom of the PV cell.
     With its newfound energy, the electron escapes from its normal position in an atom of the semiconductor material and becomes part of the current in an electical circuit.  By leaving its position, the electron causes a hole to form.   Special electrical properties of the PV cell- a built-in electric field - provide the voltage needed to drive
the current through an external load (such as a light bulb.)

What is Solar Energy?
A.   Solar energy uses the suns rays to generate heat or electricity. It is a renewable energy resource used to generate energy in clean, environmentally friendly way.

What is the difference between Solar Panels and Building Integrated Photovoltaic products?
Solar panels are flat panels mounted on a roof or pole that capture energy from the sun. Building integrated photovoltaic products are PV arrays that are integrated into the building itself such as roof shingles or windows.

How much maintenence do solar energy panels require?

Solar Photovoltaic panels require very little maintenance.  It is important to place panels where they will not be obstructed by shade or debris.  They will need to be periodically wiped free of leaves or snow. 

What is LEED?
Leed or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings.  LEED gives bulding owners and operators the toolds they need to have an immediate and measurable impact on thier buildings performance.  LEED promotes a whole building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in 5 key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.  

Renewable Energy Terminology

Kilowatts (kW)
* A measure of electric power.  One kilowatt is 1000 watts.

Kilowatt hours (kWh)
* A measure of electrical energy, derived by multiplying the power used by the time in which it was used.  One kilowatt hour is equal to one kilowatt of electric power used for one hour.

Photovoltaic (PV)
* PV cells convert sunlight directly into electricity. PV cells are made of semi-conducting materials similar to those used in computer chips.  When these materials absorb sunlight, the solar energy knocks electrons loose from thier atoms, enabling the electrons to flow through the material to produce electricity. This process of converting light (photons) to electricity (voltage) is called the photovoltaic effect. 

PV Panels or Modules
* A series of connected silicon cells encased in tempered glass panel to produce a sizeable amount of electricity. Multiple panels become an "array".

Net Metering
*Electricity produced by the renewable energy system that flows into the utility grid, literally spinning the existing electrical meter backwards.  Net metering allows renewable energy system owners to recieve full value for the electricity they produce over a billing cycle without installing costly battery storage.

Renewable Energy
* An energy source that renews itself in nature, such as solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal. 

Solar Thermal
* A system whereby collector panels or evacuated tubes heat water or other fluids to be used and stored for domestic hot water or space heating systems. 

* Living, traveling, and doing business in a manner that enhances economic and community well-being without depleting natural resources faster than they are restored.

Wind Turbine
* A generator that uses the wind's energy to generate electricity. 
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