Anatomy of a Solar PV Electricity System.

Here’s a picture showing how a typical solar PV electricity system works:

solar system components

Your new solar PV power station will be made up of the following components:

1. Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Panels

These are the most expensive part of the system and will typically make up 60% of the cost of your system. They simply absorb sunlight, and spit out electricity. However that electricity is in a form that is not very useful to us – Low Voltage, Direct Current (DC) electricity. To make it compatible with our appliances it travels via chunky, high current, cables to what’s known as an inverter. But first it goes travels through another component.

2. Rooftop DC Isolator

This is a manually operated switch that enables quick shutdown of electricity being transmitted from the panels to the inverter in the case of an emergency.

3. DC to AC Inverter

This is a box of tricks that takes the ‘raw’ electricity from the PV panels and boosts its voltage to 240V AC so that it will power all our appliances and gadgets. These are the next most expensive bit of kit in a system

4. AC Isolator Switch

Another safety mechanism that enables quick shutdown of the system; disconnecting it from your home.

A word of caution: There is a specific shutdown procedure that should be followed when disconnecting your  – follow instructions or better still, get a qualified installer where the situation allows; e.g. to conduct any maintenance work. All the voltages in a solar PV system can potentially be lethal!

5. The main fusebox (switchboard)

Unless you have an old or particularly small fusebox, you shouldn’t need a new one, but your new system will be wired into your existing switchboard, so that it can feed into the grid and or house wiring and or meter.

Be wary if someone tries to quote you for a system without inspecting your switchboard.

6. Consumption meter

This is a very handy optional device enabling you to monitor your household’s energy consumption as well as you solar system’s electricity generation. As well as helping you determine how much money solar energy is saving you on your electricity bills in real time, it will allow you to identify opportunities where you can shift appliance use to times when your system  is generating electricity.

7. Your (likely new) electricity meter

In many cases, you will need a new electricity meter able to measure electricity imports and exports to/from the mains grid. Your electricity retailer will install this for you. Be aware: The retailer could potentially use this as an excuse to put you on a ‘time of use’ electricity tariff. This means that you may pay different amounts for electricity depending on when you use it. The good news is if you use your appliances intelligently this can actually reduce your bills further, but you need to know what you are signing up for. Be sure to have a good chat with your retailer about this.

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