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What is Solar Photovoltaic Energy?

A solar energy system generates electricity through the use of photovoltaic (PV) technology. PV turns the sun's light energy into electrical energy.

Electrons are electrons are electrons; the electricity generated by a solar energy system works just the same as electricity delivered by the local utility company. After passing through a component called an inverter, the direct current (DC) electricity generated by the solar panels is converted to alternating current (AC), the type of electricity that you access through the outlets in your home.

Click on the numbered items in the graphic below to view the typical solar installation components.

Is Solar Right for You?

The amount of electricity generated by a solar energy system is dependent upon several factors, primarily system size, orientation of the system, and shading. Systems are generally sized based on the maximum energy output possible at any given time. Typically, a solar system using 120 square feet of solar panels will generate 1,000 - 1,440 kWh (kilowatt-hours) per year. The size of system that is right for you depends on how big of an investment you want to make, how much energy you need to generate, and how much un-shaded roof space is available. Many factors may impact your decision to install a solar system. Here are a few things to consider:


  • Does your roof face north? North-facing roofs do not allow full utilization of sunlight and are not good candidates for solar energy systems, especially at northern latitudes.
  • Is the roof unobstructed, non-shaded, and in good condition? The property must have minimal shading by trees, buildings and other structures.
  • Is the property free from deed restrictions on solar energy systems?


  • Do you have access to cash or financing for the project? The total cost for purchasing and installing a solar energy system is based on the size of system you require and the specific details of the layout of your property. Solar energy systems often range in cost from $3 - $6 per watt.