In simple terms, solar panels convert sunlight into electricity. This electricity can be consumed in a home or fed onto the electrical grid for distribution. Power from the sun is the most abundant natural resource available; however, our access to this resource is limited by the length of days, our location, and the weather. Solar power has gained popularity in recent years as the advances in technology and tax subsidies have helped reduce costs. There are three essential components of any solar photovoltaic system:
- Solar Panels
- DC to AC Inverter
Sunlight is a pure form of energy that can be converted into other forms of energy through natural, synthetic processes. In the 1800’s A French physicist by the name of Alexander Becquerel discovered the Photovoltaic Effect, a way to convert sunlight into electricity.
Solar Panels use the Photovoltaic Effect to convert sunlight into electricity. These panels are comprised of a series of interconnected cells made of silicon. When sunlight strikes the silicon cell, electricity in the form of electrons is emitted from the cell creating an electrical current.
Each cell only produces a small amount of current; however, when connected, they can generate a considerable amount of electricity. The size of the solar panel determines how much power it can produce.
Typical solar panels used in residential and commercial applications range from 250 to 400 watts. That means that a single 250-watt solar panel, under ideal conditions, could power approximately 4) 60 watt light bulbs.
Photovoltaic or PV solar panels convert sunlight into electricity, but this electricity is in the form of direct current or DC.
Homes and businesses use electricity in the form of Alternating Current or AC.
The solar power inverter is an electronic device that converts the direct current (DC) supplied by the solar panels, into the usable and standard form of Alternating Current (AC).
Solar panels can be installed on rooftops and in open fields, but the most efficient places are those that are not shaded and have clear exposure to the southern sky.
A typical home would require approximately 10kW of solar panels (around 40 solar panels taking up about 17 square feet per panel). These panels are wired together and connected to the DC to AC inverter.
The inverter first synchronizes itself with the AC power from the electric company then the AC output of the inverter is connected directly to the grid to deliver the energy produced by the panels.
At night, the solar panels produce no energy, and the inverter uses a small amount of energy to maintain its synchronization and run its onboard electronics.
In the morning hours when the sun rises, a small amount of light is absorbed by the panels and the system begins producing small amounts of electricity.
As the sun reaches its highest point in the sky, the panels produce their maximum amount of electricity for the day.
As the sun sets, less and less electricity is generated until there is no longer enough light for production. Clouds, rain, and shade from trees and debris have a significant negative impact on solar production.
A cloudy, rainy day can cut solar production by 70 to 90%.
Solar arrays tied to the electric grid are designed to discontinue operation in the event of a power outage. Once power is restored, the inverter synchronizes itself to the grid and resumes producing electricity.
There are several factors anyone considering solar should investigate.
- Do you have a rooftop or field suitable for solar installation? Is it free of shade?
- Do you rent a home or apartment? If so, owning your own solar array may be problematic.
- Solar is a long term investment; consider the length of time to recoup your investment.
- Check with your Insurance agent to be sure your homeowner's policy covers your solar investment
- How old is your roof? Solar arrays are designed to work for 20+ years, be sure your roof will not need replacing before then.
- Do you have a neighborhood covenant? Be sure to check your neighborhood association about restrictions concerning solar arrays.
- Check with your accountant to determine if you qualify for federal tax credits.
Yes, you could install a PV system yourself, but it may be wiser to hire a professional contractor so you can avoid complications or injury. The system must also meet NGEMC’s criteria for interconnection. For information about NGEMC's interconnection requirements, including costs and liability insurance, send a message to our Energy Services team or give us a call. Discuss the steps you have taken to get to this point and provide information on the PV system you are considering.
You may have many other questions about a solar power system’s installation cost, reliability, size and space needed, lifetime, performance at night or on cloudy days and what federal and state tax incentives are available.
Renewable Energy FAQ
Yes. Through TVA’s Solar Solutions Initiative (SSI) with local power companies, NGEMC has installed a solar array at our Dalton office with a 89.6 kW generation capacity. The array may supply up to 15 percent of our Dalton building’s needs and give us first‐hand knowledge of solar technologies.
Yes, you could install a PV system yourself, but it may be wiser to hire a professional contractor so you can avoid complications or injury. Be sure to ask NGEMC about its interconnection requirements, including costs and liability insurance. If you have not already talked with NGEMC about your plans, do so now by contacting our energy services team. Discuss the steps you have taken to get to this point and provide information on the PV system you are considering. You need to make sure that the system meets NGEMC’s criteria for interconnection.
You may have many other questions about a solar power system’s installation cost, reliability, size and space needed, lifetime, performance at night or on cloudy days and what federal and state tax incentives are available. Visit the Solar 101webpage for answers to many solar frequently asked questions.
Yes. You will still be charged the System Support Fee (SSF), taxes and any extra charges if you pay for an outdoor light each month.
No. Our metering is bi-directional.
Yes. It is a good idea for you or your vendor to let us know once the project is agreed upon. We will need a copy of the one-line diagram for your system to check for loading issues and approve your plan for installation. Also, check with your local building authority for local ordinances. If you live in a community with a home-owners association, you may have to get approval from them as well.
All solar installs will have to be behind the meter. Your array disconnect needs to be installed close to your electric meter and clearly labeled as the array disconnect.
Currently NGEMC does not pay for excess generation pushed back to the grid. The TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) Dispersed Power Production program (DPP) is the only option to receive payback. If you participate in this program, you will be charged $5.25 a month for NGEMC to report the data to TVA for you to get paid. Visit the following link to review current program rates and guidelines:
Yes. You will need to sign an interconnection agreement. We have two: one is for consuming all you generate to offset your usage and sending the excess back to the grid with no credit/compensation. The second one is for generating/consuming and selling the excess to TVA thru the DPP program. Once the agreement is approved by NGMEC, you and your vendor will receive a copy. TVA requires that you have been approved by NGEMC before you can enroll in the DPP program.
Once the agreement and design are approved by NGEMC, installation can begin.
No. If the system is not able to be commissioned on the first visit by our technician, then a $275.00 trip charge will be adjusted to the account for each trip afterwards.
Our engineering department will review your plans. If any facility upgrades are needed, you will be responsible for the costs associated. This work will need to be completed before your system is installed. If you are installing panels on a large piece of property, a load study may have to be completed before the work is started. This will be the customers responsibility to pay for as well.
No, we do not have a list of preferred contractors. There are a lot of companies coming into the area. Research if solar is right for you before you sign any contracts.
Will your roof need an update in the next couple of years? If so, it may be a good idea to go ahead and do that. If not, a roof mounted array would have to be removed and the roof fixed and the panels reinstalled.
Check into local, state, and federal guidelines before your project begins. NGEMC and/or TVA would need proof of your clearance to install the generation on your property before design plans and agreements are signed. If you are planning to go through the TVA DPP program, notify them ahead of time about your plans.
The Dispersed Power Production Program (external link) allows companies or residential customers to produce renewable energy such as solar, or co-generate green energy such as biomass, and sell all or excess generation back to TVA at TVA’s avoided cost. Contact NGEMC Energy Services for up-to-date information on other solar power development programs.
Thinking of installing solar panels or a generator?
Green Power Programs
Buy portions of your electricity from a TVA program that generates power from clean, renewable resources.
North Georgia EMC (NGEMC) is offering residential customers the choice to buy portions of their electricity from a program called Green Switch® offered through the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).
With Green Power Switch, you may buy a portion of your TVA power generated from three renewable energy sources: wind, solar, and methane gas. What value is there for you in contributing to Green Switch? First, Green power is generated with renewable resource technology that lowers the environmental impact. Second, your investment in Green Switch goes directly into developing new Green power technology. Third, all the Green power TVA generates is added to the Valley's power mix.
Why does green power cost more? Because while renewable resources like sunlight may be free, the technology used to capture their energy is still more expensive than traditional power generation methods. By choosing to pay a little more for Green Switch, you help advance the technology and increase the amount of electricity generated from cleaner sources.