What is a Solar Array? It’s Actually Quite Simple!

If you’re in the market for solar, one of the first things you’ll need to understand is what a solar …

If you’re in the market for solar, one of the first things you’ll need to understand is what a solar array is. It’s not as complicated as it might seem! In this post, we’ll walk you through the basics of what a solar array is, and how it works. By understanding these basics, you’ll be better prepared to make an informed decision about whether solar is right for you. So let’s get started!

What is a solar array?

Simply put, a solar array is an interconnected group of multiple solar panels. The word “solar array” is just a fancier way of saying a bunch of solar panels connected. When combined, these solar panels can generate electricity directly from the sun’s rays. In most cases, multiple solar modules are connected to form what is commonly known as a solar panel or rooftop system. Depending on what type of setup you choose, your solar array can generate enough electricity to power your entire home or just a portion of it.

What are solar arrays made of?

Most solar arrays (groups of solar panels) are made up of photovoltaic (PV) cells which are usually made from silicon. A single solar panel is composed of multiple PV cells, and depending on what type you choose, they can come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Solar panels also contain an inverter, which converts the DC electricity generated by the solar cells into usable AC electricity. Depending on what type of system you choose, your solar array may also include additional components such as mounting brackets, wiring, and electrical disconnects.

The number of solar panels used depends on the power output you’re looking for. Generally, the more solar panels you use, the higher your system’s power output will be.

How do solar arrays work?

Solar arrays convert sunlight into renewable energy by utilizing a photovoltaic effect which is when particles of light (photons) interact with the atoms within a PV cell. This interaction causes electrons to be released, generating a direct current (DC) of electricity. This DC power is then sent to an inverter which converts it into alternating current (AC). The AC power can then be used directly or stored in batteries for later use.

A house with solar infographic

The excess electricity you do not consume can also be sent back to your utility company’s grid, reducing your electricity bills and earning you credits in certain areas.

So there you have it! That’s what a solar array is, what it’s made of, and how it works. Now that you know more about solar arrays, you can start researching what type of system is best for your energy needs.

Where can you put solar arrays?

You can install a solar array anywhere that gets enough sunlight. The most common spot for one is on your roof. If you live in the US or north of the equator, your solar array should generally face south. But if you live south of the equator, you’ll want it to face north instead.

Solar arrays can also be installed on the ground, which are called ground-mounted solar systems. These are more common in solar farms and areas where land is cheaper overall.

Solar arrays don’t have to be restricted to roofs; they can also be installed on solar canopies, pergolas, patios, and gazebos.

Solar arrays can also be installed on the top of larger vehicles such as RVs, vans, and boats.

Solar can even be an integral part of a building. These are more common nowadays in new residential construction.

infographic of solar arrays and a question mark

How many panels do you need in your array?

To get the most out of photovoltaic panels, you should try to cover as close to 100 percent of your electricity usage with them. The number of panels you need varies depending on how much energy you use compared to others. For example, if your home requires more power than your neighbor’s house, then you might need more panels installed even though both houses are the same size.

The number of solar panels you need for your home also depends on the location of where the panels will be installed. This is determined by both the geographic location and design of your home. For example, one solar panel in California will produce more electricity than a solar panel in New York because California gets more sunshine during the year. Solar installers take this into account when estimating the production of an individual’s solar panel system and proposing a design accordingly.

Solar power systems are heavily affected by the direction they face. The direction your roof faces about the sun greatly impacts solar panel production. If your roof is facing east/west, you’ll need more panels installed to produce the same amount of energy as if it faced south.

Can you install more than one solar array?

In some circumstances, your solar panel installer will suggest a system that contains several arrays supplying power to one meter.

The installation of multiple arrays can be more costly because it requires extra labor. Also, if the arrays are facing different directions, you might want to use power optimizers or microinverters for your inverter solution. Power optimizers and microinverters (also known as module-level power electronics or MLPE) help solar panel systems with complicated designs produce electricity efficiently.

If you’re considering solar power, you’ll probably be selecting between SolarEdge and Enphase.

With a standard central string inverter, if one panel isn’t performing well, it can drag down the production your solar panel arrays on the same circuit.

Solar array costs

The several determinants of solar array costs are its size, the price per watt (PPW) of your panels, how much power your household consumes, and available spatial resources for installation like roof or ground area.

A typical 5 kilowatt (kW) system costs an average of $3–$5 per watt or a total of $15,000–$20,000.

The bulk of the cost for the remainder of the system comprises mainly the solar inverter(s) and installation.

Bottom line

Is installing a solar array a good idea?

Solar panels have become increasingly affordable in recent years, making them a wise investment for most homeowners. Various solar incentives and long warranties make going solar even more attractive.

The amount of money you can save monthly by switching to solar energy varies depending on your roof’s size and angle, local electricity rates, and how much direct sunlight you receive. To give yourself an idea of the potential savings, compare your current electric bills to what they would be if you had solar panels installed.

At the end of each month, you will receive an electricity bill that displays how many credits you have earned from supplying power to the grid. These credits will be carried over and applied to your usage for next month.

Before you invest in a solar power system, be sure to do your research on different providers and types of equipment. You can often get state or federal incentives for using solar power, so try to take advantage of those as much as possible.

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I have years of experience in solar energy, and I believe that we as a society must move towards utilizing clean energy sources. We have made significant advancements in this area over the past few years, but there is still more work to be done. I hope that sharing my knowledge and experiences will help others understand the importance of moving towards cleaner forms of energy production.

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