This course will walk you through how solar power works, the different types of systems and equipment currently available in the market today (2017), and different purchasing and finance options.
This course is structured in a logical fashion as follows:
There's a lot of information generally available on the internet and very little is centralized and almost always geared towards selling you something. This course is a fairly objective overview of the topics mentioned above and designed to educate and empower those wanting to know more than what an average "introduction" to solar power provides.
This course is about 45 minutes total, although some sections may need to be reviewed more than once to get the full value from this course.
This course is designed to be cut-straight-to-the-point providing homeowners, business owners, new solar contractors and those looking for a career in solar enough information to provide a solid foundation in the area of solar power.
By the time this course is complete, you should feel ‘armed’ with enough information to:
This introduction will provide you with an overview of the course contents. This will give you a good idea of what information you can expect to find within the course as well as provide a good outline for the flow of the course.
There are many reasons to consider 'going solar.' In California, most do it for an financial reason (because solar, with incentives is typically less than buying power from the local utility over the next 20 years). Other reasons reviewed include to be "green," and to provide a sense of sustainability and independence.
This section will provide the basics of how a solar system works, as well as provide a step-by-step example of the overall equipment in Grid-Tied solar system. This section will provide an illustration of the flow of power in a solar system as well as provide an example of where solar power systems interconnect with your house and utility on typical residential installations.
This section describes in graphical format the typical energy production pattern of a solar power system. The system provided for the example is in San Diego.
This section will help you better understand generally how solar power systems are sized as well as how the utilities interact with your solar system. You'll learn that solar systems are sized to the average of your last 12 months of consumption and that the utilities typically use a system of debits and credits called "Net Metering" when interacting with your solar power system.
This lecture reviews the three basic scenarios in which solar power systems interact (or don't interact) with the utility in a grid-tie only or hybrid solar power system. This will explain how the utility interacts with you when you
This is a quick intro to the off-grid and hybrid solar power system lectures. These types of systems are not typical and many contractors will not attempt to install these types of systems because of their complexity.
This lecture covers hybrid solar power systems. These types of systems are designed to provide power should the utility 'grid' go down, but not to be lived on without the grid. This lecture will describe these systems in more detail as well as show an example of the level of complexity these systems can reach.
This lecture covers off-grid solar power systems. This will explain how off-grid solar power systems are stand-alone systems from the grid, although they are used for more than just a residential home without power.
This lecture briefly touches on two other options in relation to hybrid systems that have just recently become available in the last year or so (2014). Both of these types of systems can be compatbile with grid-tie only solar power systems, depending on your utiltiy requirements.
This lecture is a brief introduction to the equipment section of the course. It covers the three main components of a grid-tie solar power system:
This lecture covers the major commercial types of solar modules typically used in most solar installations today. Specifically we review the difference between polycrystalline solar modules and monocrystalline solar modules as well as their basic differences.
This lecture covers the other less prevalent, but commercially available, type of solar modules. This section is primarily focused on Building Integrated Photovoltaics, or BIPV. The term BIPV refers to solar modules that tend to integrate into buildings either aesthetically or completely replacing other building materials such as rooftops, roofing, windows, and shade structures.
This lecture reviews the basics of Tier 1 Solar Module manufactures. This section and next two sections are extremely important in helping you choose and understand the difference between solar modules if presented with multiple options from a supplier or contractor. Surprisingly enough, many solar installers and contractors don't even know the difference between Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 solar modules.
This section is a continuation of Solar Module Types and reviews Tier 2 solar module manufacturers and what to look for in terms of how the solar modules are manufactuered as opposed to Tier 1 solar modules.
This lecture describes how to identify Tier 3 module manufacturers. Generally these are not prevalent, but are the last 'Tier' recognized by the solar module industry. Generally these are hand-made solar modules.
This lecture reviews the reasons why choosing the right solar module manufacturer matters. Specifically we review some module manufacturers that have gone out of business or have withdrawn their product line from the solar industry as well as briefly touch on Solyndra, and how it really has nothing to do with the functional solar industry.
This lecture briefly introduces the different types of solar inverters that will be covered in the next few lectures.
This lecture covers string inverters. String inverters are the most prevalent types of solar inverters and have been around the longest as compared to other types of grid-tied inverters. String inverters can be the most efficient and least expensive options although can come with some limitations depending on your specific application. An example of a string inverter company is provided in the external resources section.
This lecture covers microinverters which are gaining widespread popularity in the solar market because of their ease of design and installation. While more expensive than string inverters, microinverters do provide some benefits over string inverters such as exceptional tolerance to shade on arrays and module level monitoring. An example of a microinverter company is provided in the external resources section.
This lecture briefly describes central inverters which are used for commercial applications. Generally, even in small commercial applications a decentralized approch (i.e. multiple string inverters) tends to be used, so these are typically found in much larger solar power systems on an industrial or utilty scale. An example of a central inverter company is provided in the external resources section.
This lecture covers DC to DC optimizers which optimize the DC power coming out of the solar module before entering a string inverter. These function very similar to microinverters but have less electronics in them and thus theoretically make them less prone to fail. An example of a dc to dc optimizer company is provided in the external resources section.
This lecture briefly introduces the major different types of solar racking.
This lecture covers on a very high level basic types of roof-mounted systems. It provides a simple overview of key points to consider when choosing the appropriate racking solution for your application. A link to PV Quickmount is provided in the external resources section which provides a great in-depth understanding of mounting types and proper flashing and sealing techniques for roof-mounted solar systems.
This lecture covers on a very high level basic types of ground-mounted systems. It provides a simple overview of key points to consider when choosing the appropriate racking solution for your application. A link to the most popular ground-mounting hardware has been provided in the external resources section.
This lecture covers on a very high level basic types of structure-mounted systems. It provides a simple overview of key points to consider when choosing the appropriate solution for your application as well as provides some visual examples of what may be available for structure-mounted racking systems. Some links have been provided for examples of structure-mounted solar power arrays.
This lecture briefly touches on other types of racking not otherwise mentioned in the previous lectures.
This lecture reviews the basics of solar monitoring systems as well as provides a fundamental understanding of why solar power monitoring systems are important for ensuring solar power systems are performing properly and optimally. Additionally a video is provided showing how a Enphase microinverter solar power monitoring system works.
This introduction briefly reviews the different types of solar financing that may be available in your area including:
This lecture briefly reviews the basics of a solar lease, currently the most popular form of solar financing. This type of financing offers no out-of-pocket cost for the homeowner and typically lower power prices for 20-years. Both up-sides and down-sides are reviewed in this lecture.
This lecture reviews the basics of a Power Purchase Agreement (or PPA) as a method of solar financing. While not as common in the residential market, PPAs are mostly found in large commercial/utility scale projects where a third party owns the solar power system then sells the energy to an 'off-taker,' (the person who buys and usually consumes the energy).
This lecture covers the basics of unsecured and secured financing available for solar power systems. These can be some of the best options for those looking to own their own solar power system -- espeically with interest rates at an all time low, and some credit unions offering terms as long as 15-20 years.
This lecture covers Property Assessed Clean Energy Financing (PACE) with a brief overview of how it works. Additionally this lecture includes a video created by a PACE provider that serves much of Southern California.
This lecture is a closing note for the course, including a recap on the major advantages to installing solar.
This lecture reviews the basics of choosing the right contractor, whether you're in the market for solar or looking to join a reputable solar company. Microinverters can make solar installations easier, which means that there are a lot of non-technically inclined contractors out there installing solar. I recommend doing your due diligence and this lectre will provide a good foundation for how to review and compare companies.
With over 9 years consulting with clients, designing and engineering solar power systems, and managing projects, I like to help those interested in solar get up to speed quickly. There's a lot of new entrants into the industry and my background, from installing solar, designing systems and running crews, to estimating and sales gives me a unique overview of key aspects within the industry. I have had the pleasure of working with some of the best engineers, project managers and installers in the industry. I have designed and engineered over 200 systems, including residential, commercial, industrial and governmental solar power. Teams I have been a part of have designed and built projects that have won industry awards. I am also a solar consultant with AYS Power (At Your Service Power, Inc.).