Solar Design

Written by Patricia Tunstall
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Solar design could hardly be more basic: panels and an inverter. Solar modules absorb the rays of the sun and make electricity. The inverter's function is to convert this direct current into alternating current that is used in existing, conventional electrical systems in houses and businesses.

These are the only major components of a photovoltaic (PV)solar system. Hardware used for solar installation is stainless steel and anodized aluminum designed for mounting the panels flush with a roof. A switchgear and ground fault protection are necessary, but these are minor elements in the system. Installation takes just 1-4 days, depending on the size of the solar system, site location, and roof configuration.

Important Paperwork

Solar design and installation are uncomplicated. First, however, comes the paperwork. After an on-site inspection to determine needs and layout of the system, you will sign a contract. Then the solar contractor will be able to qualify your system for California's cash rebates (currently, $3.20 per watt), and line you up for tax credits.

A word of caution--the state's fiscal crisis has called into question many state-funded programs, and the Emerging Renewables Program might be jeopardized. The cash rebate was supposed to be $3.60 for 2004, but was reduced to $3.20 because of the state's financial problems. Tax credits for 2003 were 15% of the solar system's cost; for 2004-2005, the rebate is 7.5%, and the authorizing legislation sunsets on January 1, 2006. The point is, if all these financial incentives are crucial to you, consider a solar system soon.

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