Like a lot of people, you may be excited about the prospect of generating power with solar panels.
It might be because you’re an environmentalist and want to do your part to help Mother Nature.
It could be because you’re looking for an easy way to save money on your monthly utility bills.
It could be a combination of the two.
Whatever the case, you probably have a lot of questions about how long it will take to generate power and how much electricity you should expect.
5 Answers to Common Questions About Generating Power with Solar Panels
We’ll begin with answering one of the most common questions on this topic before proceeding with others we know most people have.
1. How Long Does It Take to Generate Power?
Technically, your solar panels will begin generating power the moment it absorbs sunlight.
In simplest terms, solar panels work by letting particles of light (photons) disturb atoms, knocking lose their electrons. This generates the flow of electricity that can be used in your home.
So the second that sunlight starts knocking electrons free, electricity is being generated. That electricity, in turn, is immediately available.
If you decide to store the power in a battery, that electricity can be used whenever you wish to access it.
2. How Much Electricity Should I Expect?
The amount of electricity you can expect from solar panels will depend entirely on your setup. Obviously, the more advanced the panels, the more energy they’ll be able to harvest from sunlight.
All things being equal, the more surface area your solar panels represent, the more sunlight they can absorb, which will create more electricity.
Again, all things being equal, the more sunlight your panels are exposed to, the more electricity they can produce. Solar panels in Southern California will be able to produce much more electricity than those being used in Saskatchewan.
You can find out how much electricity to expect from your solar panel by checking for its max power rating. This tells you how much power it can produce during peak conditions. It’s usually located on the back of the panel, but you should research this number before purchasing a panel to be sure it will be sufficient for your needs.
Then, you can find out how much sunlight your home gets online.
Just be sure you consider potential obstacles that might get in the way. For example, if a neighbor’s house would block your roof or a tree normally provides shade, your solar panel will have a hard time producing electricity.
3. How Long Till My Solar Panel Pays for Itself?
Again, this will have to do with the amount of electricity you use in your home, the type of setup you install, and how much power your home needs (more on that in a moment).
It will also depend on what kinds of programs exist in your area to help you pay for your solar panels. These would include:
- Accelerated Cost Recovery Systems (MACRS)
- Cash Rebates
- Investment Tax Credit
- Performance-Based Incentives (PBIs)
- Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs)
- State Tax Credits
- Subsidized Loans
- Tax Exemptions
4. How Long Can the Energy Be Stored?
Theoretically, solar power can be stored for as long as your battery can secure it. For homeowners, this is, essentially, indefinitely.
Unless you plan on seeing if your battery can hold solar power for decades, you’ll probably never find its limit.
The more important question for most homeowners is, “Why would I want to store solar power?”
Most people think the idea is to send the electricity right to the panels to the home for immediate use. This is certainly going to be the case for much of the time but not always.
Think about peak conditions when the sun is out and your home doesn’t need artificial light or the times when you’re on vacation.
This is when you want a battery to store the solar power so you can use it later when you need electricity and would otherwise have to pay to access it off the grid.
5. How Much Energy Do I Need from My Solar Panels?
Finally, this is one of the most important questions about generating power with solar panels and, yet, far too many people don’t think about it until it’s too late.
Fortunately, a simple energy audit of your home will give you these answers. Make sure you address any issues (e.g. drafts) that may be causing you to use more energy than you need, as well.
The Unique Aspects of Generating Electricity with Solar Panels
As you can see, most aspects that affect how much electricity a solar panel can generate will be unique to where you live and your personal needs.
Fortunately, it’s never been easier to research these matters and get clear answers long before you begin paying for installation.
The one thing seems to true for everyone is that the entire installation process is worth it, whether you’re hoping to save the environment, save some money, or both.