It is expected that the number of residential solar installations will increase in the next few years. Photovoltaic, or PV panels, can be mounted on the roof of the property, providing a large proportion of the energy needs of the residence. Most of these residential systems remain connected to the city or town’s utility electricity supply grid. The grid provides electricity when the panels are not operational (i. E., at night time), and removes excess electricity during the daytime.
Photovoltaic panels (PV panels) contain thousands of little cells or chips, each of which contains a semiconductor circuit which converts light into DC (direct current) electricity. The panel itself provides environmental protection for the circuits, and connects enough elements together to provide a practically useful amount of voltage and current. [Power equals voltage times current]
Residential PV systems normally contain additional electronic circuits. An inverter is a circuit which converts the DC power from the panels into the AC (alternating current) used by household appliances. There are also meters provided. Two-way metering measures electricity flowing from the utility grid into the home, and from the home into the grid.
There are two reasons why the home should remain connected to the city’s utility electricity supply grid. The first is that a source of electricity is needed during darkness hours, when the PV panels are not operating. Energy storage in batteries is possible, but in developed countries it is more cost-effective to use the existing utility grid as an energy reservoir.
Secondly the PV panels can sometimes generate more power than the home actually needs. This could happen for example on a sunny summer day when the family are not at home. If the system is connected to the electric utility grid, then it is possible to feed this excess power into the grid. Subject to signing suitable agreements with the utility company, the homeowner will be paid an agreed rate for that electricity.
The electricity produced by PV installations has a lower carbon footprint than the main conventional energy sources – coal, oil, natural gas. As governments around the world wish to reduce their carbon emissions to comply with international protocols and agreements, they offer many subsidies and incentives to those who adopt PV technology.
The incentives can vary from country to country and from locality to locality, but in general there are two types of subsidy. In some countries the installation cost of the equipment may be subsidized. This is either by direct grant, or by tax incentives. In other countries installation owners can qualify for favorable tariffs (feed in tariffs). These guarantee that excess electricity from the installation will be purchased from the owner at favorable rates.
Local companies offering solar installations can be expected to offer advice on grants, subsidies and tariffs in your country or locality. As PV panels can provide substantial reductions in utility bills, and government encouragement through subsidies is widely available, it can be expected that the number of deployed systems will grow substantially in the next decade.
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