Solar for Schools FAQs

Solar FAQs

How big are the panels?

The size of the panels varies depending on the manufacturer, but a single panel is generally 3-4 feet by 10-12 feet. The total space that a solar installation will occupy depends on the number of kW installed. A typical home will use 10 to 20 solar panels, while a system on a school could be much larger.

Will a solar system include batteries?

No, the vast majority of solar systems are grid-connected. This means the solar panels are connected to your local utility electric grid to complement your normal power supply. On days when you produce more power than you consume you will send the excess power back to the grid and your school will receive a credit on your electric bill for that power (i.e. when you send electricity to the grid, your meter runs backwards).

What happens when the power goes out? Will the panels power the building? 

When the power goes out, your solar panel will also automatically shut off. This is to prevent the system from sending electricity onto the grid, where line workers may be working and could be injured.   

Will my solar energy system generate power only during the summer months?

No, your solar energy system will produce energy whenever the sun shines. But, because the days are shorter in the winter, you will produce less energy than during the summer.

Who insures or maintains the panels?

Once installed, the system becomes another part of the school that would be covered by the district’s insurance policy as any other item on the school grounds. Depending on the manufacturer, warranties cover various parts of the system.  If a school uses a third party and signs a PPA, then the third party owns, maintains, and insures the panels.

What are solar panels made of?

PV modules are usually made of crystalline silica – derived from sand or quartz – that is refined into metallurgical-grade silicon, then sliced into very thin wafers, which become the main component of photovoltaic panels.

Do solar panels generate noise?

No. Solar panels are completely quiet. The only sound in a solar installation is the junction box, located away from the panels themselves, where the collected DC energy is converted into usable AC electricity.

What about glare?

Solar panels are designed to absorb light and heat, not reflect it. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) even allows solar systems near airports because reflected glare is not a significant concern. FAA studies concluded solar panels with anti-reflective coatings reflect only about 2% of incoming light. Solar-panel glass is formulated to reduce reflection and facilitate maximum absorption of solar energy.

What about radiated heat?

Solar arrays collect no more heat than any other structure standing in the sun. Solar panels generate no net heat and there is no data to substantiate any claim to change in ambient temperature.

Is there a danger when a panel breaks?

Solar panels pose no significant danger of breakage. The panels are covered with highly durable tempered glass. In the event a panel breaks, workers responding to the break would exercise normal care when working around broken glass or electrical components.

Are fire or harmful fumes a danger?

Solar panels pose very minimal danger of fire because they are made of metal and glass and are sealed units. According to the Electric Power Research Institute, it is theoretically possible for hazardous fumes to be released in case of fire, and inhalation of these fumes could pose a risk to human health, but researchers generally do not believe these risks to be substantial given the short duration of fires and the relatively high melting point of the materials in the solar modules.