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About Solar

Today's renewable energy systems are reliable and have numerous benefits. Systems are available for both homeowners and commercial business owners.

Benefits of going solar:

  • Clean & reliable energy
  • Creates jobs
  • Adds resale value to the home
  • Offsets the cost of electricity over the lifetime of the system
  • System longevity - solar panels are generally warranted for 25 years and have an expected life of over 40 years
  • Low operation and maintenance costs - little to no moving parts
  • Great for public relations and community education

Solar Electric (Photovoltaic Energy - PV) - Use the sun's energy to create electricity
 

Photovoltaics, or solar electric systems, are a semiconductor technology that convert light energy into electrical energy. Here's how it works:

  1. Photons from the sun strike the face of a solar cell, which is made up of two layers (silicon and either boron or phosphorus).
  2. Photons knock off electrons in the base layer and bounce them to the upper silicon layer.
  3. The electrons travel through a wire from the top layer to an inverter, and then return to the bottom layer of the cell where they begin the journey again.
  4. The inverter converts electricity from direct current (DC) to utility-grade alternating current (AC).

Types of Systems - three approaches to system design

  • Off-Grid Independent System - No connection with utility lines and is most practical in isolated locations. A set of batteries store the electricity, although a gasoline generator is sometimes used for emergency backup. This system will frequently make use of more than one resource.
  • Grid-Connected System - System is connected to utility lines. This system provides the benefits of renewable energy with the consistency of the utility. Utilities allow net metering, which enables surplus power to be sent back to the grid and power to be drawn from the grid when more electricity is needed. However, when the grid is down, there will be no electricity available.
  • Grid-Connected Battery-Backed System - This system combines the consistency of being connected to the utility with the ability to store excess power in a set of batteries.

 

Solar Hot Water Systems (Solar Thermal) - Use the sun's energy to heat your water
 

Solar hot water heating systems consists of solar panels, in the form of collectors, which are connected to the building's existing water heating system. It is one of the most inexpensive renewable energy systems and often has a fast economic payback. Here's how it works:

  1. The flat-plate collector system (most common type) is composed of an insulated aluminum box with tempered glass on the front. Behind the glass, there is a black plate with a grid of copper pipes attached to it. A non-toxic antifreeze mixture fills the collectors and all piping.
  2. When the sun shines on the collectors, the antifreeze mixture heats up.
  3. A pump circulates the heated antifreeze mixture from the collectors to a heat exchanger.
  4. The heat exchanger transfers the heat from the antifreeze mixture to the water, which can then be used for either domestic purposes or as a space-heating system.


solar@milwaukee.gov


(414) 286-5593

Solar Information & Resources

Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) - Education

We Energies - Information

U.S Department of Energy - Renewable energy technology

NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Pracitioners) - "Gold Standard" for renewable energy certification

Site Assessments

NABCEP List of Certified Solar Professionals

MREA - Site Assessor List

Permits

Milwaukee Shines Solar Electric Permitting Process Guide

City of Milwaukee Permit Page

Financing

Milwaukee Shines Solar Financing with Summit Credit Union

Me2 Commercial PACE Financing

Installers

Focus on Energy - list of installers

NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Pracitioners) - "Gold Standard" for renewable energy certification

Incentives

Focus on Energy - Incentives

DSIREUSA (Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency) - List of incentives

Interconnection

We Energies - Interconnection information

Looking to Install Solar?