Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels convert sunlight into electrical energy. PV panels produce the most power when they directly face the sun. While some systems move the panels to track the sun as it moves across the sky, most simply remain in a fixed position. In North Carolina, panels work best when they face the south at an incline of 25 to 40 degrees in order to get the most sun throughout the year. However, substantial electricity output occurs across a wide range of orientation and tilt.
Today, a majority of PV systems are connected to the utility grid and are often referred to as grid-tied. The energy produced by these systems is used immediately by on-site or nearby electric loads. In a grid-connected system, the PV system has an inverter to change the electricity from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) power that can connect with the grid. Many smaller systems are "net metered". In this set up, power goes out to the utility grid for others to use when there is more electricity being generated than being used, but when PV systems are not producing enough power to meet the onsite demand, the demand is met by electricity from the utility grid. Net metering can make the most sense financially with the current rate structure when, over the course of a year, the amount of electricity generated is close to but slightly less than the electricity being used.
The cost of PV panels has come down considerably in recent years, making investing in solar electricity more and more viable for more and more people. The links on this page are intended to point to resources to help you learn more about solar electricity in North Carolina and determine if investing in solar might make sense.
The DSIRE database is a comprehensive source of information on incentives and policies that support renewable energy and energy efficiency. DSIRE is operated by the NC Clean Energy Technology Center at NC State University, with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.