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What are the parts of our system, how does it work?

You can see pictures of all the parts in the photo gallery.

On the roof of our house, there are 18 solar panels. They are made by Sharp Electronics Corporation (model NT-175UC1). They are guaranteed to produce power for 25 years.

The array of solar panels generates electricity when the sun is shining. The amount of electricity depends on a few things, but mainly how many clouds there are, and whether it’s raining or snowing or not.

There is a heavy duty cable that runs from the roof down the back of our house, and then through a hole into the basement. The cable runs through the basement ceiling and connects to a solar power inverter. The inverter is a device that converts the direct current (DC) electricity from the solar array into alternating current (AC) electricity that can be used in our house and elsewhere on the public power grid. Our inverter is made by Xantrex, model GT2.8, which appears to be discontinued.

The inverter connects to a meter on the front of our house, which records how much power is produced (although there is a 0.7% line loss between the inverter and the meter, so our production numbers on this website are slightly higher than what the official record is — the actual dollar amounts quoted on the website are adjusted down to account for this).

Our system is connected “in series”, which means that after the meter, a final cable goes back inside our house to a breaker in our electrical panel. At that point, power from the array is either used in our house, or, if we’re producing more electricity than we need at that moment, it goes out to the grid for use by our neighbours. You can look at the consumption and export graphs to see the way this plays out, depending on how much we’re using at any one time, and how much solar power is being produced.

If you get a microFIT system in the future, the rules say it will need to be connected “in parallel” which means the electricity goes directly to the grid after leaving the meter.

There are no moving parts, it is an extremely simple, reliable system.