Solar panels and solar system

Solar in Manteca California: System Types, Panels & Costs

BY

Allen Jones

Most solar systems last approximately 30 years and typically pay for themselves in 4-5 years. This ideally means that with solar in Manteca California, the average homeowner can have ‘free’ electricity for years.

Furthermore, if a family installs powerful batteries for backup, they can have access to substantial emergency power. This can come in handy during storms, and hurricanes.

How Solar Energy Works

Solar electricity is generated by translating sunlight to electric power leveraging the photovoltaic (PV) effect. Simply put, the PV effect triggers an electrical current to flow through a solar cell exposed to sunlight.

Currently, solar cells power devices from calculators to homes, commercial buildings, and power plants. More impressively, solar cells power all satellites in space responsible for the world’s communications.

Fundamentally, solar companies construct solar panels by combining multiple solar cells together. Therefore, multiple solar panels when combined form a solar array. As a result, solar panels combined in series and merged with extra components become solar electric systems. Overall, the average solar electric system can then meet the average home’s electricity needs, offsetting 25-50% of most homes’ power requirements.

Types of Solar Panels

Generally, there are two main types of conventional solar panels: crystalline silicon and thin film.

Silicon Solar Panels

These rigid solar panels come in two forms: crystalline (built from a single large crystal) and polycrystalline (built from silicon blocks containing small crystals). Silicon panels are the most efficient but also the most expensive on the market. However, they’re also the best-performing panels in low-light conditions.

Though polycrystalline solar cells are a bit less efficient than single-crystal types, silicon panel efficiencies average approximately 33%.

Thin-Film Solar Panels

Thin-film panels are built by spreading silicon and other solar-generating materials over a very thin layer directly onto a large plate. This large plate is usually made of glass or ceramics. As a result, these solar panels have efficiencies that range from 10% to 19%.

Overall, thin-film panels are less efficient than silicon solar panels, but also less expensive to produce. Furthermore, their thin material makes them ideal for building-integrated solar products like solar shingles and tiles. The most popular thin-film materials are cadmium telluride, amorphous silicon, and copper indium diselenide.

Future Solar Panels

Essentially, crystalline silicon is the most common solar cell material.  However, newer materials for constructing solar cells include thin-film materials like amorphous silicon and cadmium telluride.

More recently, some solar companies have started employing plastic and aluminum foil to generate solar electricity. However, it may be some years before these new products fully become available to consumers.

Additionally, newer solar materials are emerging that include lightweight foil-based solar panels, plastic collectors, and even hybrid solar electric/solar water heating collectors. Furthermore, more advanced hybrid systems are emerging to capture hot air from solar electric panels and employ it to heat water.

Solar in Manteca California

Solar in Manteca California: Types of Solar Electric Systems

 The most basic solar system is traditionally made up of: solar panels, an inverter, a battery, wiring, a charge controller, and a support structure. Furthermore, the three most prevalent types of solar electric systems are: grid-connected, grid-connected with battery backup, and off-grid. However, each maintains distinct applications and components.

Grid-Connected

These types of systems have solar panels connected to a local utility electrical grid. As such, they complement a home’s normal power supply from their utility company.

Fundamentally, grid-connected systems comprise of:

  • Solar panels mounted on the roof
  • A junction box connecting the solar panel wiring to the breaker panel on the home
  • An inverter to convert electricity from direct current (DC) energy into alternating current (AC) energy.
  • A power meter to display how much power the home produces and uses
  • A disconnect switch to prevent the system from sending power to the grid during power outages (for safety reasons).

Grid-Connected with Battery Backup

Similar to grid-connected systems, such systems add a “battery bank” to collect the power generated from solar panels. Ideally, the battery bank accumulates the power produced by the solar panels, transports it to the breaker box, Then into the house power system.

The components of such a system are:

  • Roof-mounted solar panels
  • An inverter
  • A power meter
  • A disconnect switch to prevent islanding, especially during power outages.
  • A battery bank for power storage
  • A charge controller to prevent battery overcharging.
  • A junction box

Off-Grid or Stand-Alone

Fundamentally, off-grid systems aren’t tied to any utility power lines and are common in remote areas. In such areas, connecting to the utility grid is typically more expensive than buying an off-grid system. As such, the solar system becomes the home’s main source of power. Furthermore, fuel generators, and small wind systems are sometimes utilized as backup power.

Off-grid systems comprise of:

  • Solar panels
  • An inverter
  • A rectifier to change AC to DC and back again
  • A charge controller
  • A junction box
  • A power meter
  • A disconnect switch

Solar in Manteca California

Solar in Manteca California: Cost & Technical Specifications

Typically, solar panels are rated in watts based on the maximum power they generate under ideal sun and temperature conditions. Homeowners can employ this rated output to estimate the number of panels they will. However, the precise energy produced by a solar system also depends on roof orientation and tilt, shading, dust, panel conversion, and wire losses.

In sunny climates like Manteca California, an average 1-kilowatt system with optimal orientation and tilt generates between 1,400 and 1,700-kilowatt-hours per year. As a result, most Manteca California builders estimate that a 2.4-kilowatt system typically offsets 40-50% of the electricity requirements of an energy-efficient home.

Overall, this number can be lower or higher depending on the sunshine your home receives each year and the house’s energy efficiency. Generally, most solar vendors currently sell 2-3 kilowatt package systems for homes, depending on one’s home’s energy use, and roof orientation.

In conclusion, when considering solar in Manteca California, solar systems typically cost on average $8-10 per watt installed. However, new technologies are taking costs down every year. Furthermore, federal and state incentives offer consumers tax credits and rebates for buying solar electric systems to reduce the cost. As such, some vendors currently sell solar systems at “after-rebate” prices. And even complete all the paperwork themselves.

Before tax credits and rebates, the average 2-kilowatt (2,000-watt) system costs between $16,000 and $20,000. However, the cost per watt typically goes down as the system size increases. Therefore, a 5-kilowatt system is typically installed for $35,000 ($7 per watt). So, depending on where you reside, after rebates and tax credits, the cost for a 5-kilowatt system can reduce to $2.50 per watt or $12,500.

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