Photovoltaic is a solar power technology that uses arrays of photovoltaic cells to convert light from the sun directly into electricity. Solar cells produce direct current (DC) electricity from light, which can be used to power DC equipment or to recharge a battery. Adding batteries to your photovoltaic system will also provide a secure back-up source of electricity for your home. An inverter is required to convert the DC electricity to alternating current (AC) electricity to power almost all uses of electricity in the home.
The first practical application of photovoltaics was to power orbiting satellites and other spacecraft and pocket calculators, but today the majority of photovoltaic modules are used for grid connected power generation.
The basic photovoltaic cell typically produces only a small amount of power. To produce more power, cells can be interconnected to form modules, which can in turn be connected into arrays to produce yet more power. Because of this modularity, photovoltaic systems can be designed to meet any electrical requirement, no matter how large or how small. A typical 3.15 kW photovoltaic system in Georgia can offset up to one-third of the member's average annual electricity usage.
Benefits of photovoltaics
Let's look at the many benefits of photovoltaics
- It's highly reliable and needs little maintenance.
- Photovoltaic solar cells are an environmentally safe technology that converts sunlight directly into electricity.
- By using a renewable source of power, such as sunlight, you help ensure our energy future by tapping into an infinite power supply.
- It's produced domestically, strengthening our economy.
- It's modular and thus flexible in terms of size and applications.
- It helps meet the demand and capacity challenges facing many energy service providers.
- It serves both form and function in a building.
Factors that affect the cost-effectiveness of a photovoltaic system
Depending on your specific need and location, there are a number of factors that affect cost effectiveness, including:
- System Size - Because of economies of scale, large systems cost less per watt than small systems.
- Installation Complexity - More complex installations, including mounting systems on racks, working around obstructions or on tile roofs can be more expensive.
- System Production - Installing your system at the optimal orientation and tilt will maximize system production. The more energy your system produces overtime, the lower the cost per kilowatt hour.
- Operation and Maintenance - Compared to other distributed energy technologies, operation and maintenance costs of photovoltaic systems are relatively low. Costs may include occasional cleaning of photovoltaic modules, regular visual inspections and possible repair or replacement of the inverter and/or components after a number of years.
- Financial Incentives – Federal tax credits and other incentives may be available to help lower the effective costs of investments in photovoltaic systems. +
Does installing a photovoltaic system make sense for my home?
Estimated Project Generation
Based on the average output of a typical photovoltaic system located in Atlanta area, a 3.15 kW system will generate about 5,500 kWh of electricity each year. This represents about one-third of the electrical energy usage of a typical home in Georgia. **
Estimated Project Savings
In this example, the 3.15 kW photovoltaic system generating about 5,500 kWh annually will offset electricity costs of about $500 per year, based on today’s electricity rates. ***
Estimated Project Cost
To provide 3,150 watts (3.15 kW) of power to a home, the estimated costs associated with purchasing and installing the system is approximately $9.00 per watt or $28,350: *
Project Cost Summary
|Photovoltaic system installed cost ($9.00/watt x 3,150 watts):||
|Less photovoltaic rebate ($450/kW x 3.15 kW):||
|Less Federal Tax Credit (30% of installed cost ) :||
|Less State Tax Credit ( Max 35% of cost up to $10,500 per house)||
|Net Project Cost||
Recommended PV Systems and Installers
Florida Solar Energy Center -
National Renewable Energy Laboratory -
U. S. DOE, EERE -
U. S. DOE, EIA -
How Stuff Works -
American Solar Energy Society -
Solar Electric Power Association -
* This is an estimated installed cost and is for illustrative purposes only. The actual installed cost of your photovoltaic system will vary and will depend on your specific structure, the angle, orientation and size of your system, the need for any additional supporting structures, the quality of your system components and the quality of the installation.
** This is an estimated amount of photovoltaic produced electricity and is for illustrative purposes only. The actual amount of electricity your photovoltaic system produces will vary and will depend on your specific geographic location, the angle, orientation and size of your system, natural variations in the weather and climate, the quality of your system components and the quality of the installation.
*** This is an estimate of savings and is for illustrative purposes only. Your actual savings will vary and will depend on the amount of electricity actually produced by your photovoltaic system and the average cost per kWH normally charged by your co-operative for this amount of photovoltaic-generated electricity had it been supplied by the cooperative.
+ Consult with your tax advisor about the applicability of receiving a Federal Tax Credit.