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Frequently Asked Questions
 

What is a renewable resource?
What is Photovoltaic technology and how does it work?
What is the best environment to use a photovoltaic cell in?
What is Net-Metering?
What incentives are out there for Connecticut?

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about solar technology in the state of Connecticut. If you have a question that is not on this page or think that one should be added feel free to e-mail Solar Connecticut.

What is a renewable resource?
A renewable resource is a technology that uses the forces of nature to produce electricity. These forces of nature are typically constant therefore the source of the power behind the production of the electricity is renewable. Several types of renewable resources are hydroelectric (water power), wind power, and solar power. For more information about renewable resources go to the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund's Website.

What is Photovoltaic technology and how does it work?
Photovoltaic technology is a renewable resource that generates electricity using the power of the Sun. The light we see from the Sun is made up of very small packets of energy called Photons. When these photons hit the materials in a photovoltaic cell they knock electrons free, these electrons then flow through wire to power the equipment being used then return back to the photovoltaic cell. Since the electrons are being recycled in this process (returning to the point they came from), as long as there is Sun light to knock them free then there will be electricity produced. For more information on how solar works click here.

 What is the best environment to use a photovoltaic cell in?
The obvious answer to this question is an environment rich with light. However, many people think that the only place to effectively use PV technology is down south or in the desert. This is not true though. PV cells work more efficiently in cooler conditions compared to higher temperature and though southwest part of the U.S. may be able to obtain up to 7 kilowatts per square meter of solar energy the higher temperatures decrease the efficiency. Here in the northeast part of the U.S. we can obtain from 3-5 kilowatts per square meter of solar energy and the temperatures stay at a level better suited for PV cell usage.

 What is Net-Metering?
Net-metering is a simplified method of metering the energy consumed and produced at a home or business that has its own renewable energy generator, such as a photovoltaic energy systems. Under net metering, excess electricity produced by the PV system will spin the existing home or business electricity meter backwards, effectively banking the electricity until it is needed by the customer. This provides the customer with full retail value for all the electricity produced.

Under existing federal law (PURPA, Section 210) utility customers can use the electricity they generate with a photovoltaic system to supply their own lights and appliances, offsetting electricity they would otherwise have to purchase from the utility at the retail price. But if the customer produces any excess electricity (beyond what is needed to meet the customerís own needs) and net metering is not allowed, the utility purchases that excess electricity at the wholesale or Ďavoided costí price, which is much lower than the retail price. The excess energy is metered using an additional meter that must be installed at the customerís expense. Net metering simplifies this arrangement by allowing the customer to use any excess electricity to offset electricity used at other times during the billing period. In other words, the customer is billed only for the net energy consumed during the billing period.

There are three reasons net metering is important. First, because solar energy is an intermittent resource, customers may not be using power as it is being generated, and net metering allows them to receive full value for the electricity they produce without installing expensive battery storage systems. This is important because it directly affects the economics and pay-back period for the investment. Second, net-metering reduces the installation costs for the customer by eliminating the need for a second energy meter. Third, net metering provides a simple, inexpensive, and easily-administered mechanism for encouraging the use of small-scale photovoltaic systems, which provide important local, national, and global benefits to the environment and the economy.

For more information about net-metering and connecting your solar home to the power grid please contact your local power provider.

For Connecticut's consumers the power company must be notified because net-metering does not work with the current meters on home. The power company will come out and for no charge to the customer replace the existing box with one that will allow for net-metering.

What incentives are out there for Connecticut?
For incentives in Connecticut please click here to check the DSIRE website.


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