Archive for January 29th, 2010



January 29, 2010

Go Green with solar photovoltaic systems

By Lorraine Cyr

What is a solar photovoltaic system you ask?  It is a grid of solar panels made of silicon that convert sunlight into electricity.  Depending on how big a system you install you can save up to 80% in your energy cost.  Condo and Cooperative Associations can receive a grant of up to $33,000 from DC Department of Energy along with tax credits and utility rebates the system can be almost free. 

How does a photovoltaic system work?

Photovoltaic energy is the most promising and popular form of solar energy. In solar photovoltaics, sunlight is actually converted into electricity. This is very different from a conventional understanding of solar power as only a way of heating water. Photovoltaic, now the biggest usage of solar energy around the world, is briefly explained below:

Sunlight is made of photons, small particles of energy. These photons are absorbed by and pass through the material of a solar cell or solar photovoltaic panel. The photons ‘agitate’ the electrons found in the material of the photovoltaic cell. As they begin to move (or are dislodged), these are ‘routed’ into a current. This, technically, is electricity – the movement of electrons along a path.

Wire conducts these electrons, either to batteries or to the regular electrical system of the house, to be used by appliances and other household electrical items. In many solar energy systems, the battery stores energy for later use. This is especially true when the sun is shining strongly.  A solar powered calculator is a small same of this type of power.

How much can I save?

If a building of 57 units has an electric bill that averages $600 per month for lighting of common areas and parking lots were to install a 10,000 watt system with an estimated cost of $80,000 the return on the investment would result is a 9% rate. Currently most savings accounts are paying only 2%. 

At BP Solar USA web site they estimate the following:

Estimated system cost                   $80,000

Federal/State Tax credit               $17,100

DC Utility Rebate                              $23,000

Net Cost                                              $39,000

Cumulative lifetime savings         $89,000 over 25 years or 9% return on your investment

Why would you not choose to install safe solar energy with savings like this?  These numbers are for the DC area and take into account the average number of hours of sun light we receive and that PEPCO will increase the cost of electricity 5% per year.