What is a Solar Panel?
Certain semi-conductor materials, when in the presence of light react, by generating electricity. This is what is known as the photovoltaic effect. By forming these semiconductors into small “cells” with an electrical field, the photovoltaic effect can be used to power anything which requires electricity, from simple calculators to whole buildings.
In order to power larger devices, cells are arranged into larger, self-contained groupings called “modules”. These modules can be grouped into even larger “arrays” which produce even more power. Arrays are what are most commonly referred to as panels.
Solar panels can either be a stationary fixed mounted system or a rotating system which tracks and follows the sun for optimal panel efficiency. In contrast to moving arrays, stationary panels are virtually maintenance-free and less expensive, but do not collect as much sunlight per surface area as do moving ones.
Why should I be interested in Solar Panels?
Solar panels, also referred to as solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, use the sun’s energy to generate electricity through a process known as the photovoltaic effect. PV provides a wide array of environmental and fiscal benefits. Solar panels demonstrate a commitment to conserving fossil fuels and limiting air pollution. Solar power is one of the most potent sources of renewable energy and PV systems represent a clean form of energy that emits no harmful substances during normal use.
Solar panels also have some economic benefits when compared to traditional energy systems. While still a relatively new technology, higher efficiency PV cells are continuously being developed, while production prices decrease.
Once in operation, PV systems require minimal upkeep costs and have long lives, typically more than 20 years when properly installed. PV systems are most commonly used as supplements to existing energy systems. One common use is self-generation during of times of peak demand when energy rates are prohibitive.
What are the steps to installing solar panels in an existing building?
- Before installing a solar system for your home or business, both Southern California Edison and the California Energy Commission (CEC) recommend undergoing an Energy Efficiency Audit, which can be done freely. Replacing inefficient appliances and changing incandescent lights to fluorescent ones along with a solar system will provide the greatest benefit.
- The next step is choosing the right installer. The CEC maintains a databaseof solar installers, contractors, and retailers. Self-performed installations are allowed as well.
- In order to receive incentives from Southern California Edison, an application is required is required prior to installation. Which application will be used depends on the type of building and the amount of energy solar will provide.
- Incentives for projects under 10kW
- Incentives for commercial projects 10kW or larger
Additionally, please see the guidelines developed by the City of Beverly Hills for solar photovoltaic installations.
What are the steps to installing solar panels in new buildings?
Integrating solar technology with new construction is often far easier than adding solar capability to an existing building.
Those interested in adding solar to a new home should check their eligibility through the New Solar Homes Partnership Program. Part of the California Energy Commission’s California Solar Initiative, the New Solar Homes Partnership (NSHP) offers the greatest level of support and incentives for those wishing construct new residential buildings with solar capability.
Please see Southern California Edison for information on eligibility, incentives, and information on how to apply. Eligibility in the NSHP depends on which utility the home will use for its electrical service. Publicly owned, or municipal, utilities are not eligible.
Those not eligible for participation in the NSHP can participate in the overall California Solar Initiative which offers rebates and incentives for all installation types. The federal government’s EnergyStar Program also offers tax rebates.
What does the City of Beverly Hills require for installing photovoltaic panels?
Prior to any installation, a plan check and permit is required. For information regarding the plan check and permitting process, please contact the City of Beverly of Hills Department of Community Development, Building and Safety at (310) 285-1141 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The City of Beverly Hills adopted a set of guidelines developed by the City of Beverly Hills for solar photovoltaic installations so that these systems may be installed in the safest and most effective way.
Effective January 1, 2011 all installations have additional requirements in accordance with the California Green Building Standards (CALGreen) Code which must be met.
All Residential buildings must comply with Section A4.211 “Renewable Energy” of the 2010 CALGreen Code. Non-residential buildings must comply with section A5.211 “Renewable Energy” of the 2010 CALGreen Code.
View the CALGreen Code online.