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First Source Solar Systems
Davis, CA 95618

(530) 554-1925
(707) 317-7561
(916) 342-2630

Lic# 905956



  • How Does PV Work?
    When some materials are exposed to sunlight, they release small amounts of electricity. This is known as the photovoltaic effect. When describing solar cells, the photovoltaic effect is the conversion of sun energy into electricity by the cells.

    This is how it works. Sunlight is composed of photons, or particles of solar energy. These photons contain various amounts of energy corresponding to the different wavelengths of the solar spectrum. When photons strike a PV cell, the energy of the photon is transferred to an electron in an atom of the cell, which is made of a semiconductor material.

    With its newfound energy, the electron escapes from its normal position on the atom and becomes part of the current in an electrical circuit. When this happens, the electron creates a "hole." Special electrical properties of the PV cell, specifically a built-in electric field, provide voltage that drives the current through an external load, such as a light bulb, a hairdryer or a television set.

  • How big should my photovoltaic system be?
    There is no one right size for photovoltaic systems. Every site is unique and the needs of system owners vary, too. System size depends on several factors, including how much electricity (in kilowatt-hours or kW-h) you consume, the orientation of the system, the tilt of the system, available space.

    After first looking for ways to reduce your energy consumption since saving energy is typically cheaper than generating it.  Furthermore, the smaller your overall consumption, the smaller and cheaper the system you'll need. Since the Utility will not credit you for any excess electricity generated on an annual basis you will want a system that meets up to 100% of your annual energy usage but not more.  An easy rule of thumb is to take your annual consumption (in kWh) and divide that by 1300 kWh/yr. (1kW of PV will generate about 1300 kWh per year). This will give you an estimated system size. For example, the Smiths consume 6000 kWh per year. If we divide 6000 by 1300 we get 4.6. This means the Smiths need about 4.6 kilowatts (kW) of photovoltaics to completely offset their annual consumption. First Source can help  you come up with more exact numbers based on  your specific needs.

  • How much electricity will my photovoltaic system produce?
    How much a photovoltaic system will produce depends on the orientation, tilt and location of the system, and the amount of sunlight hitting the photovoltaic modules.

  • Are photovoltaics cost-effective?
    The simple answer is yes!  If you had purchased your system 10 years ago you would already be generating all of the free energy you need and the Utility would only send you a very small bill once a year to be your battery (Net Metering).  Of course the cost-effectiveness of photovoltaics depends on the future price of power which is difficult to predict.  When you purchase a PV system, you are effectively buying all or a portion of your power for the next 30+ years at a fixed cost. If average long-term electricity rates are above that fixed cost, the investment was worth it. When we calculate payback periods we typically use very conservative estimates such as historical rates at which energy cost has increased even though most experts believe that energy will become more expensive, more quickly as we begin to deplete know fossil fuel reserves.  So, you are essentially hedging your energy costs against what they may be in the future much like large energy consumers like airlines already do.  One thing, however, seems to be universally agreed upon; and that is that the cost of energy will probably never go down.  Which makes buying your next 30+ years of power now seem like a pretty good investment.  Business-owned photovoltaic systems are the most cost-effective applications due to rebate programs and great tax incentives.

  • How much do photovoltaic systems cost?
    How much you pay for a photovoltaic system depends on many factors, including system type and configuration, the difficulty of installation and available incentives.  Costs mentioned here are installed costs. This means the final cost (before rebates) to the consumer for the equipment and labor to install and connect the PV system as well as processing state, federal and Utility paperwork.  Residential systems typically range from $8 to $10/watt, while larger commercial and institutional systems typically cost $6 to $9/watt. Generally speaking, the larger the system, the lower the cost.

  • Are there any financial incentives available to reduce the cost of PV?
    Yes, there are state and federal incentive to encourage the adoption of renewable energy systems.  First Source will work with you to take advantage of all of the incentives available to you.   

  • What are the benefits of Net Metering?
    Net metering allows you to get full retail value for all of the electricity you produce. It does this by permitting you to feed any excess electricity you generate back into the electric grid to be used by others and you can retrieve it later, free of charge. You can "bank" power credit on the utility grid similar to the way a battery might store real energy, thus saving you the expense and hassle of an actual battery storage system.  Your excess electricity now offsets electricity you would otherwise have to buy at full retail prices. Getting this full retail value for your excess electricity makes owning your own generating system more cost-effective. For example, on a sunny summer day when no one is home, a PV system might produce more electricity than needed at the time. However, at night when your system is not producing, you'd need to get power from the Utility. Let's say you put 10 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of excess electricity into the electric grid during the day, net metering allows you to take 10 kWh off the grid later and pay nothing for it (it's a trade).

  • How will I be billed under Net Metering?
    The Utility will continue to read your meter monthly, just like they always have. However, with net metering, you will receive a monthly statement (not a bill) that indicates the net amount of electricity you consumed or the net amount generated and put into the electric grid that month. On the anniversary of starting net metering, you will receive a bill for the amount of net electricity consumed over the last twelve months.

  • What are some of the common misconceptions about Net Metering?
    Will the Utility pay me full retail rates for any excess electricity generation above 100% of my annual consumption?

    Sorry: The Utility will not purchase/credit you for any excess annual generation (more than 100% of your annual consumption). However, if they are willing to buy this "net" excess annual generation, they do not have to pay you full retail prices for it. While the actual rate paid would be up to the Utility, it would likely be less than retail and closer to "wholesale" rates, which are much lower.

    Will I have to spend hundreds of dollars on special meters, inspections or fees to get my system hooked up to the electric grid?

    No: You are only responsible for having a simple, bidirectional meter, the type you may already have. Since your PV system meets national safety and performance standards, you cannot be charged for additional tests, certification or fees.

    Will the kilowatt-hours of electricity I might still need to buy from the Utility cost me more than before I became a Net Metered customer?

    No: The Utility cannot charge you anything extra for being a net metered customer and no charges can be imposed on the electricity you generate.

  • How do I sign up for Net Metering?
    It's simple!  As soon as you decide to install a photovoltaic or wind generating system, First Source Solar will fill out the paperwork to have the Utility install your meter.

First Source Solar Systems - Davis, CA - (530) 554-1925, (707) 317-7561, (916) 342-2630 -Lic# 905956
© FirstSourceSolar.com 2010



We offer a wide variety of solar panels, diy solar panels, solar charge controllers, DC to AC Inverters, batteries, enclosures, cable and wiring, system monitoring, solar hot water, solar powered attic fans, solar ventilation, solar water pumping, and solar powered fountains. We have several types solar power system inlcuding grid-tied solar power systems, off-grid solar energy systems, 5-110 watt kits. We offer green power and alternative energy products and energy accessories. We also offer sustainable, energy efficient, conservation products for the home .

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