Solar PV Intro

Solar PV (photovoltaic) is different than Solar Thermal (ST).  While PV is a newer and more advanced technology, installing a PV system is easier and more straightforward.  This isn't to say one technology is better than the other.  They are just different.

The biggest question I get asked about PV from consumers is whether to use batteries or connect directly to the grid.  The only time you want to install a battery system is:

a) you are really rich and want the most advanced system in your neighborhood

b) you just really hate your utility and dont want any part of them (their wires) touching your residence.

c) you live in the boondocks and dont get electric service.

Other than that, you almost always want to connect your PV system to the grid (a.k.a. grid-tied or grid connected).  Why?

  • You dont need to spend the money on expensive batteries (the grid acts as a battery)
  • If you live in a net-metering state, your utility has to pay credit your power bill for the electricity you produce. They may even pay credit you a premium for your solar power.
  • Less maintenance is required.
  • It's probably safer.

One of the best websites I've found to learn about solar in your state is  I wish their message boards for my state were a little more active, but maybe you can help that out.

Other good resources are DSIRE (for incentives) and (for installers and other resources).

More to come!

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To say something is "newer," "more advanced," "easier and more straightforward to install" is in fact, calling it "better than the other." That said, they are different -- different systems that utilize solar energy for different applications. Thanks for the referral to Great site. Yours too, btw. Keep it up! Cass
Ed, in this case, I am only referring to solar thermal water heating, not power generation. I would check the value on DC -> AC conversion. This <a href="" rel="nofollow">Sunny Boy</a href> inverter has an efficiency a little over 90%, and those values are improving all the time. Thanks for the comment!
I would question your calling solar photovoltaics a more advanced technology compared to solar thermal. I infer you are discussing hot air or hot water heat collection systems and not stirling or steam engines to produce power. In my opinion forr a system to be more advanced it must have reached a level of maturity where it can be purchased or built at a reasonable cost. yes net metering has allowed the cost of photvoltaics to come down but solar thermal for producing heat and hot water destroys photvoltaics. A famous solar inventor- name escapes me, said using electricity to heat your home is like using a chain saw to cut butter. Photvoltaics should be considered, after increased insulation, better daylighting, use of solar driven LEDs, energy recovery ventilators, radiant barriers, rainwater collection , better use of ventilation for cooling, greywater use for toilet flushing and landscaping. If it was working now at reasonable prices we would not need energy credits to buy it. As far as batteries go, if you are only using for lights, 12 volts deep cycling batteries work well. Other items can use solar electricity as it is generated such as a solar fan. Whenever we convert from dc to ac we lose 30 percent, and if we can use that dc as it is being generated ,solar voltaics are much more efficient.

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