It's been a year since my husband and I had 36 solar catchers attached to our roof, and we're still very excited about them. Our online solar account tracks our usage and tells us that our panels have produced 9,240 kWh’s of energy in the past 12 months, that offsets 10,165 pounds of carbon dioxide.
Not only are we reducing our carbon footprint, our investment portfolio is growing. Without even noticing, we produce enough energy to earn about nine Solar Renewable Energy Credits or Srecs which we can sell on the stock exchange for about $5,500 a year.
Also, the electricity portion of our monthly PSE&G bill is $2.50. That’s right, folks, two dollars and 50 cents. Since we typically produce more electricity than we use, this small administration fee is all we pay each month. Using a clothes line instead of the clothes dryer whenever possible was the biggest energy cutter. We make the sun work double at our house!
So, you may be asking yourself “How does it work?” Here is how solar panels turn sunlight into energy:
1. Sunlight hits the solar panels on the roof. The solar panels convert the photons in sunlight into electrons of direct current ("DC") electricity.
2. The direct current electricity flows through the inverter, where it is converted to alternating current ("AC") and fed into the grid. AC power is the type of electricity used by all the appliances in your home.
3. A meter monitors solar system production to ensure it is producing as it should.
4. A bi-directional, or net meter keeps track of all the electricity your system contributes to the grid, as well as the electricity your home uses from the grid. When your home solar system produces more electricity than your home is using, your net meter will let your utility company know to give you credits for that. At night and on days when your home uses more electricity than your system is producing, you'll use up those credits and draw electricity from the grid.
Want to learn more? The New Jersey Clean Energy Program is a great place to start. The library also has some wonderful resources if you are interested in exploring solar power or other alternative energy sources. "Photovoltaic Design and Installation for Dummies" is a wonderful starting point to learn the basics and beyond. To take your energy explorations further, take a look at "The Homeowners Guide to Renewable Energy."
Photo Credit: Shelly Hawk