Fact Sheet

Fact Sheet

What is the value of electricity generated by solar?
The cost of installing solar arrays has fallen dramatically in the past few years, making it a viable resource
investment. For the developer, the cost of the array is a combination of initial costs and the operating costs
over the projected life of the system, divided by the amount of electricity that system will produce. Systems in
different regions of the country will produce differing amounts of energy, industry experts explain.
Size matters. Utility-scale solar can take advantage of economies of scale, including stream-lined production,
installation and materials. Utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) systems cost 50 percent less on a dollar per kilowatt
(kW) basis than residential systems.

How does solar work?
Solar energy is among the cleanest, most abundant renewable energy source available today in the United States.
With today’s technology, this resource can be harnessed in several ways, giving the public and commercial
entities flexible ways to employ both the light and heat of the sun.
While solar is comprised of a diverse suite of technologies, PV is the most common type of solar, according to
industry sources. PV panels, which directly produce electricity from sunlight, have no moving parts, and use an
inverter to change the direct current (DC) power they produce to usable alternating current (AC) power.

Are all PV panels created equal?
According to the Department of Energy, the conversion efficiency of a PV panel is the percentage of sunlight
shining on the panel that is converted to electricity. The amount of energy produced by any given PV panel
depends on four factors: the PV cell efficiency, the temperature response of the cells, the module layout and the
anti-reflective coating. Residential solar arrays should use high efficiency modules, which allow more power to
be installed in a smaller area.

What are the size and specifications of the solar panels?
In WFEC’s projects, each panel is about 3 feet x 6 feet, weighing around 55 pounds. At each solar site, panels
are arranged in rows and are oriented to west-south-west to maximize output later in day to reduce summer
peak load. The panels for community solar projects are ground mounted, with a fixed tilt. As for the utilityscale
sites, single axis tracker panels are utilized. These panels will follow the sun.

Will the solar panels glare? Do they get hot?
With regard to reflectivity, solar panels are designed to absorb light as opposed to reflecting light. With regard
to temperature, the outer surface of a solar panel does not noticeably increase in temperature, however the
underside does.

What happens to solar panels when it’s cloudy or raining?
PV panels can use direct or indirect sunlight to generate power, though they are most effective in direct sunlight. Solar panels will still work even when the light is reflected or partially blocked by clouds. Rain actually helps to keep the panels operating efficiently by washing away any dust or dirt.

Is there an issue with bird collisions on the solar panels?
There are no reported issues with bird collisions related to solar PV arrays, according to industry sources. This is more closely tied to large utility-scale solar thermal farms that use mirrors to concentrate the sun’s rays onto large towers that heat liquids and run steam turbines to create electricity. The heat is so intense that birds flying through this type of array literally get scorched. This is not a concern for a standard field-installed PV solar array.

Are solar farms noisy?
The sound from the inverters will not be heard beyond 10 feet or so.

Are the panels made out of glass, and if so, do they ever break?
The outer surface of a solar panel is covered with tempered glass. Typically, they would only break due to vandalism or gun fire. Hail rarely damages solar panels for two primary reasons: tilt and materials. First, most solar panels are tilted to some degree, so hail striking the panels usually hits at an angle, lessening the force of the impact. Second, since the widespread adoption of tempered glass, solar panels have become much more resistant to damage from hail or other projectile impacts. Most are rated for golf ball size hail and designed for 90 mile per hour wind loads in accordance to national and local building codes.

How long do PV panels last?
Assuming high quality modules and proper maintenance, the life of a PV system should be 30 years or more. However, the efficiency of the panels will slowly degrade over time. PV modules typically have a warranty for 25 years to 80 percent of original output. However, they will continue to provide power for many years after that.

Is the solar farm safe for the environment?
The generation of electricity from PV solar panels is safe and effective and systems do not have emissions associated with other generation technologies. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, few power-generating technologies have as little environmental impact as PV solar panels.

Can too much solar be a bad thing for the power grid?
For decades, electricity has essentially traveled a one-way street from the power plant to the end-user. That is changing as technological advances are made in the industry. Energy storage and micro-grids are also changing how the grid operates. These changes are driving efforts nationwide to modernize the grid and create a system that is more dynamic and resilient.
Feeding the grid large amounts of electricity generated from sun and wind poses some challenges. Experience shows that increases in solar and other intermittent generation affect power plants that may have to slow or shut down in response to the drop in demand.

Can solar energy be stored?
There are many different technologies for storing energy, including new residential battery options for adventurous consumers. Not only are the technology and applications for energy storage evolving rapidly, the costs are also coming down. But overall, this industry is still in the early stages.

How many homes can be powered by one megawatt of solar energy?
The current national average of homes powered by a megawatt of solar photovoltaics is 164, according to sources The U.S. solar industry is growing at an unprecedented rate. There were 7.3 gigawatts (GW) of photovoltaic capacity installed in 2015, which is 16 percent more than installation levels in 2013, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) website.
As solar becomes a more significant piece of the U.S. energy generation mix, it is important to understand just how many homes a megawatt of solar capacity can power. The U.S. installed 2,051 MW of solar PV in the second quarter of 2016 to reach 31.6 GW of total installed capacity, enough to power 6.2 million American homes. With more than 1.1 million residential solar installations nationwide and a contracted utility-scale pipeline over 20 GW, the industry is on pace to nearly double in size within a year or so.
However, the average number of homes powered per MW of PV varies from state to state due to a number of factors including: average sunshine, average household electricity consumption, and temperature and wind.