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In the last few years solar power has evolved into becoming a technology well suited to personal power generation. In many parts of the world incentives have created many large utility scale projects as well. Usually a mandated incentive is required to make solar power competitive with other generators of electricity. If you live in an area with incentives it is worth looking into the details. Incentives are usually structured to ensure a quality installation by requiring good solar exposure, listed equipment with good warrantees, and installation by qualified persons.

If you are interested in a grid-tied (that is, connected to a utility) system, the size of the system is only limited by space constraints and your electric utility policies. This is the most efficient type of system and the energy from the solar panels is converted directly to standard AC power and synchronized with the utility. Any surplus energy is effectively sold to the utility instantly, so storing energy is not necessary. Optionally, a grid-tied system can include some energy storage to provide backup power during power failures.

If you are interested in a non-grid-tied (that is, not connected to a utility, also called Off-Grid or Standalone) system, the size of the system must be well matched to the electrical loads. This type of system also requires batteries, and usually a backup generator.

About Solar Energy

The Sun is an excellent source of energy, and as energy prices rise it makes sense to consider solar energy for two types of energy that everyone needs - heat and electricity. Solar heating is also called Solar Thermal, or Solar Hot Water.

Note there are many variations of solar energy collectors in research labs and special industrial situations. It is possible to do a great many things with the various forms of energy that come to us in sunlight. In the future there will probably be many types of optical systems and new semiconductors to use all of the various wavelengths present in sunlight. Today, for home- or business-scale systems, the dominant technology is a sheet of crystalline silicon which throws off electrons in proportion to the amount of visible light striking the sheet.

These sheets of silicon crystal are encased in a thin sealed lamination to form a lightweight but strong and durable solar module or solar panel. The front of these panels is made of special tempered glass so they have a toughness close to auto glass and skylights. All of the materials used in solar panels are manufactured specifically for that purpose, and very long life is possible because air and water are sealed out of the lamination, and there are no moving parts.

Federal Incentives

Federal tax credits have been extended through 2017! The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 which was signed into law on Wednesday, October 1, 2008, contains renewable energy legislation which is great news for our solar customers. Not only was the 30% commercial solar investment tax credit extended through 2017, but the same tax credit was extended to residential installations also. Under this new legislation the previous $2,000 cap for residential solar installations is eliminated. This means that now the purchase of a residential solar electric system will make you eligible for a tax credit equal to 30% of the cost of your solar system, including installation.