Insights & Advice From Bank Of Tennessee


Solar Energy Options

Solar Energy Options

Since 2008, hundreds of thousands of solar panels have been installed throughout the country. Growing numbers of individuals in the US have decided to take advantage of the sun's energy to power their everyday lives. Many more will follow.

Fortunately, the cost of solar energy declines every year, with partial thanks being given to investments made by the Solar Energy Technologies Office. You might be thinking about adding solar power to your home. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, below is some information that can help you decide which solar energy option is right for you.

What Are the Main Types of Solar Energy?

There are a few primary types of residential solar energy power solutions. These are:

  • Grid Inter-Tied

    This solar power solution is connected directly to your home and your standard electric utility grid. It allows you to obtain energy from your utility grid or your home electrical system. Switching between the grid and your residential system is seamless.

    The main benefit of this type of system is balancing your home power requirements and system production. When a grid inter-tied solution creates more power than you consume, the extra could be sold back to the utility through a process referred to as net metering. Your home can draw power from the grid when the system is not able to generate power.

    These types of solutions are the lowest expense type of residential solar electric solution because it has fewer required components.

  • Off-The-Grid

    This type of solar power is prevalent in locations where there is limited grid power. The more remotely located the home is, the more cost-efficient the solar system is. It does not rely on a utility grid but rather solely relies on the solar power it generates. This solution collects, regulates, converts, and distributes solar energy harnessed through this solution. Typically, it utilizes another type of energy like a diesel generator, for instance, for backup.

    Before off-the-grid solutions are installed, homes should have a big uninterrupted area that offers exposed sunlight for a great part of the day. If you build a new home, use building materials with outstanding insulation features to cut down on energy requirements. State and federal governments offer incentives and subsidies for using off-the-grid solutions.

  • Grid Inter-Tied With Battery Backup

    This solar power solution is connected to the standard utility power grid but adds a battery backup to the solution. The battery backup addition allows the solution to balance demand and production and protects against a power outage.

    Solar electric system production will depend on the sunlight available. If the sun is abundant, production could go over demand. When production is above demand, the extra power will charge the battery, which stores the electricity. If the solution produces less electricity than what's demanded by the house, the battery will make up for the shortfall.

What Solar Energy Option Is Best For Me?

You could assess solar panels on several primary parameters:

  • Durability
  • Production
  • Manufacturer quality

How much electricity a solar panel can generate will depend on a few factors, which include:

  • Power tolerance
  • Power rating
  • Temperature coefficient
  • Efficiency

When you take them together, these factors will tell you the amount of power your panel, or set of panels, can generate.

You will also want to check panel manufacturer quality indicators. Begin with the assurances and warranties the manufacturer provides on their equipment. Like with anything else, solar panels become less efficient and degrade over time. Many manufacturers will guarantee their panels' power production will not fall below a specific threshold for twenty-five years. Also, a lot of manufacturers have warranties on materials in case panels fail.

Solar panels are typically extremely durable. However, suppose you reside in a high wind or snowy location. In that case, you will want to be sure the panels can handle your area's conditions.

Different Types of Solar Panels

Most solar panel choices presently available fall under three types:

  • Monocrystalline
  • Thin-film
  • Polycrystalline

These solar panels vary in:

  • Their appearance
  • How they're made
  • The installation they are suited for
  • Their cost

The following is a brief description of each type of panel.

  • Monocrystalline Solar Panels

    These are made using monocrystalline solar cells. The cells are created from a cylindrical silicon ingot from a high purity single crystal of silicon in the same manner as a semiconductor. Then the cylindrical ingot is cut into wafers that form cells.

    When the sun falls on monocrystalline solar panels, the energy is absorbed by the cells. The sun's energy generates an electric field that comprises current and voltage and creates power through a complex process. You can then use this power to power your devices that run on DC (direct current) or convert it to AC (alternating current), which uses an inverter.

  • Thin-Film Solar Panels

    Thin-film panels are created from various materials. The thin-film solar panel most prevalent is created from cadmium telluride (CdTe). To create this thin-film panel type, manufacturers add a CdTe layer between transparent conducting layers that help capture the sun's light.

    Thin-film solar panels could also be created from amorphous silicon (a-Si). While these thin-film panels utilize silicon within their composition, they are not created of solid silicon wafers. Instead, they are composed of non-crystalline silicon placed on top of metal, glass, or plastic.

  • Polycrystalline

    These types of solar panels are known as "multi-crystalline." Since there are a variety of crystals in each cell, the electrons have less freedom to move. Polycrystalline panels have lower efficiency ratings than most monocrystalline panels.

    Even though they typically have lower efficiencies than monocrystalline choices, their benefit is a lower cost. Also, polycrystalline solar panels often have a blue hue instead of monocrystalline panels, which have a black hue.


Within every type of solution, there are slight variations in design that impact convenience and efficiency. To figure out which system is ideal for you, you will want to have a solar installation professional review your requirements. They can provide you with guidance to help you make an informed choice of specific solutions that best match your needs.