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Solar 101: Answers to 18 solar questions all business executives should know

Clouds in the shapes of question marks

1. What is solar energy?

Solar energy takes advantage of the sun’s rays to generate heat or electricity. It is an infinitely renewable resource and unique for its ability to generate energy in a quiet, clean, and consistent manner.

2. How do solar photovoltaic (PV) panels work?

Photovoltaic panels are comprised of many silicon semiconductor cells. Added to the silicon are the elements phosphorous and boron, which create conductivity within the cell and activate the movement of electrons. The electrons move across the cell when activated by the sunlight’s energy into the electrical circuit hooked up to the solar panel. One cell produces very little power, but when strung together in series, the cells work together to create substantially more power.

3. How much does solar cost?

Every SunPeak project is custom designed and pricing varies depending on project parameters. The cost of solar has dropped significantly over the past 10 years, leading to grid parity in 2016, meaning it costs the same or less than utility rates.

4. What’s the difference between solar photovoltaic and solar hot water systems?

Solar photovoltaic systems use photovoltaic panels to produce electricity. Solar hot water, or thermal, systems capture sunlight to heat water. SunPeak does not offer solar thermal systems.


5. How much maintenance do solar panels require?

Solar photovoltaic panels don’t have any moving parts to wear out or replace and require very little maintenance. Occasional rain is enough to keep them free of dust and debris, so regular cleaning is not required. It’s not a bad idea to perform a yearly inspection, but it is probably unnecessary for proper performance.

6. Will the wind blow the panels off of the roof?

No, SunPeak works with local licensed structural engineers to review and approve the roof structure and attachment methods to ensure the solar system stays put in a high wind event.

7. Does it stand up to weather?

The system is designed to handle 30-40 psf of snow load, 90 mph of wind gusts and 1′′ hail stones at 55 mph.

8. Is financing available for solar?

SunPeak has a variety of financing options available for our customers, some even allow a business to go solar for no money down. Since every business is different, we have financing to fit every business’ needs.

9. Are there special insurance requirements for solar?

Standard business insurance policies usually cover the system with no additional cost. It is still prudent to confirm with your insurance company once the system is commissioned.

10. Is a building permit required to install a solar energy system for my business?

A building permit is normally required, but it depends on your local jurisdictional rules. SunPeak takes care of all permitting, paperwork and inspections.


11. How long will it take to install solar at my business?

The typical installation (permits to commissioning) takes 12 weeks. The physical construction portion of the installation varies by size, complexity of the system design and local weather patterns, but typically takes less than a week.

12. What is the lifespan of the system?

Solar electric systems are projected to last 30 years or more. Panels carry a 25-year warranty and the inverters are warranted for 10 years.

13. What happens if I produce more electricity than I am using?

Excess electricity will be fed into the utility grid and your meter will spin backwards when you are producing more than you use. You will receive a credit on your utility bill per your utility's net metering agreement. SunPeak designs the system to not produce more energy than you will use over the course of a year.

14. What is net metering?

Net metering is a billing mechanism that allows customers to only be billed for "net" energy use. Solar energy system owners receive credit for the electricity they produce and feed back to the grid if they have a net metering agreement with their utility.

15. Do I need battery backup for my solar panels?

Net metering essentially stores energy for you in the grid in the form of utility credits, so a battery backup is not required. Additionally, storage adds significant cost and maintenance to the system and really brings down the ROI. If you are concerned about having power during an outage, a backup generator is more cost efficient than maintaining a bank of batteries.

16. How many solar panels do I need for an electric solar power system?

The size of the photovoltaic system is correlated to your business’s energy-use needs, available space for a system, and overall costs for the system components and installation. During the design phase, our engineers will design the optimal system size, taking into account the various factors to maximize cost benefits.

17. Do I need to have south facing exposure to have a solar energy system?

Southern exposure increases the energy produced per panel, but the delta wing (east/west orientation) maximizes solar density for our commercial clients with flat roofs.

18. Is solar technology changing? Should I wait?

Like all technology, solar technology changes over time. Solar has come a long way over the past decade and is now less expensive and more efficient than ever. With the current financial incentives, now is the best time to go solar.

Print friendly download of SunPeak's FAQs.

844-NO-CARBON  •  844.662.2726 (toll free)  •  608.535.4554 (local)
440 Science Drive, Madison, WI 53711
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