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Solar Energy Projects
What's to stop a person
from doing solar energy projects on their own
the ultimate objective of running their house totally on solar energy?
Well, the cost has always
Even with the Federal
Solar Energy Tax Credit
the price can still seem too high. For a person who likes to
"do-it-yourself," like me, you have probably wondered if you could
somehow do it cheaper, buying the solar panel and parts and putting it
together yourself...and if you are capable of doing it.
find out if one of the available solar energy projects is something you
could do yourself, here is an outline of
what is involved so you can see if it's a good fit for you and your
Energy Projects - Selecting a Location
First of all
you are going to need a sunny region to live and a sunny
spot where you will install the system.
Logically, the more sun your solar energy project gets the more
electricity, hot water, etc, it will produce and the faster it will pay
Fortunately, do-it-yourselfers and solar energy "kits" have been around
for a long, long time, and there are tools now that can help you figure
out what you are looking at.
So to decide where to
build one of your solar energy projects
, take a
look at the solar pathfinder
. This tool is
recommended as the very best and affordable way to find exactly the
right positioning for your solar energy project.
does the solar pathfinder work?
It shows you a reflection
the sky and the sun's path for all four seasons in your area.
Use this tool. You might find that objects you wouldn't normally think
of will shade portions of your solar
panel array during each season. This is very important, as even a short
or narrow shadow
falling across your solar panel will negatively affect the function of
the entire panel.
Another thing to take
is that your solar panels
should be set up pretty close to your electric meter hookup. You will
be using a direct current (DC) power that comes from the photovoltaic
cells in your panels. The wire that carries DC must be larger (more
expensive) the greater the distance your panels are from the inverter,
meter, and power center of your home.
It should be near the house but not exposed to impacts from kids
The roof is a logical place. But make sure you know the condition of
your roof first. I know it would be a headache to install your panel
just right and then find out you need to take it down to replace your
Energy Projects - Figuring Sun Angle and
If you are in the
you will want your panels facing
as close to due south as possible (180 degrees azimuth). Logically, if
you are in the southern hemisphere (Down Under), you are going to be
looking for due north.
If you need to find which way is due south (or north) from your
location, use Google Maps.
Enter your address and
click on the satellite image. Then determine exactly which way your
roof is facing.
Most likely you are a short or a long way north or south of the
equator. Since the sun will not be directly overhead for much or all of
the year, your panels need to be angled to face the fullest direct
You need to angle your
panel to the same degrees as your latitude
find your latitude, go to the latitude map of the US
. For example, look up
Portland, Oregon. Portland has a latitude of around 45
degrees. Install your solar panels to face due south as noted above and
then angle them at 45 degrees from horizontal.
Your roof may be close to the angle you need already. If not, you will
need to make a stand or rack in order to hold your panels at the right
Energy Projects - Space Considerations
big is my solar panel array going to be? Do I need to cover the
whole roof or just a few square feet?
It will take 1 square
foot to produce about 10 watts of solar power.
you need 1000 watts, your panels will cover 100 square feet (10 feet by
10 feet). This measurement includes room for your panels plus your
stand, the wiring, and some space to work in. Although not exact, it
will tell you pretty close how much area you will need.
For your additional
the inverter, breakers, power
components, allow an area about the size of a half sheet of plywood or
4 feet by 4 feet.
Check with your power
company to see if extra room will be needed
install a new meter, etc.
The perfect place to build or work on your solar projects and store all your garden items is in your new outdoor shed! Free tips on Sheds and Outdoor Storage, along with ideas on choosing the right one for you and your family.
Energy Projects - Inspections and Licenses
need a building permit or license to build and install my solar
That will depend on the laws where you live. Check with your power
company. This is a good time to talk to them about selling back power
when you have a surplus. Find out what equipment will be needed to do
Also, there may be rebates
in addition to your state
or federal solar power rebates.
Get an up-to-date figure from
your power company showing exactly how much you are currently paying
for each kilowatt hour from them.
You need to contact the
building inspector or local building department
to see what is required in your area. A building permit is likely
needed to avoid stiff penalties later. Usually you can just get a
qualified electrician to verify and sign off on your work.
Energy Projects - Figure Out How Much Energy You
Before completing all the above,
is there a way to know how much energy
my project will produce?
Again, there are tools available to help you figure this out, for
example the National Renewable Energy Lab site. Using the information
you have collected already, find and click on your area on the solar map. The window that opens should
say 'Send to PV Watts' at the bottom. Click the link and follow the
Enter in kilowatts the size of the solar energy system you would like.
The 'calculate' button will then show what you can expect to produce
each month for a year.
Energy Projects - The Budget
much can I afford to spend?
This is where you started, wasn't it? Since cost has historically been
the drawback to solar energy power production, this is a very important
part of your project planning.
much will the components cost?
For a complete solar
you will probably be spending around $4 to $6 per watt. The cost mainly
depends on the size of the solar array and racking
there programs to help with the costs of my solar energy projects?
One of the best developments in the solar energy project field right
now is the tax deduction and rebate programs. Be sure to take into
account all state, local, and
incentive programs, which can be found here
You may even find a supplier that will take the rebates off the price
of the system. Then the manufacturer goes after the rebate.
a program like this.
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