Differences in solar panels and solar cell technology is primarily a function of the solar panel efficiency and, as with any appliance, the quality of the manufacturer. With respect to the cell technology, panel efficiency typically ranges from 12–21 percent. For a general idea, check the sites listed on the Solar Energy Resources page. Also, check with your qualified solar contractor to get more specific information.
Photovoltaic systems are relatively simple. They consist primarily of the panels that collect the sunlight and convert it into electricity, an inverter for changing the current from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC), and the support structure and wiring necessary to connect these devices into your home electric system.
The answer depends on whether you are buying a system outright, leasing a system or using some other method. Make sure you check with your local building and zoning office to see what building code regulations apply. You will also need an interconnection agreement with your local EMC. Meeting the terms of this agreement will help ensure your system is safely connected to the grid. Your qualified contractor can help provide this information.
Sometimes a customer-owned solar system will generate more energy than is used. Many EMCs provide credit for excess energy produced by a customer’s solar equipment. This concept is sometimes called “net metering.” We recommend that you carefully size your system to maximize your investment, based upon specific energy use in your home. Check with your EMC to learn more about their policies and procedures for interconnection and opportunities for use of any excess energy generation.
You should check with your insurance agent to see whether your policy covers solar panels on your roof or in your yard.
A federal income tax credit of 30 percent is available for homeowners and businesses that install their system prior to Jan.1, 2017. These credits are subject to limitations and eligibility requirements, so check with your tax advisor to see if you qualify.
If you are interested in using solar energy without generating it yourself, EMCs sell green energy produced by solar, as well as low-impact hydroelectric, landfill gas and biomass projects. Depending on your location, you might also have the option of participating in a community-scale solar project.