Understanding Solar Systems

Our goal is to be your trusted experts as you decide which solar system is right for you.

We encourage you to contact us to determine if solar is a good fit for you or for additional information regarding your solar installation.

How Solar Panels Work

Solar systems have small photovoltaic (PV) cells that generate electricity from the sun. The PV cells are combined to form your solar panel. The solar panels are connected to form a “solar system” or sometimes referred to as a solar array. These solar systems or arrays can range in size. Smaller systems can power a road sign or yard lights. Large solar systems cover miles of land that are often part of a large industrial or utility-scale solar farm.

Learn About the 3 Different Types of Solar Systems

As you may have guessed, rooftop solar systems are mounted or attached to the roof of a home or business.

Rooftop solar is most thought of when referring to solar programs. It is most often utilized as a residential system. In addition to residential homes, rooftop solar systems are used widely on commercial, industrial buildings, and even parking garages.

Rooftop systems are smaller in scale and typically have less capacity for solar production than other types of solar systems.

Energy Produced & Cost

The amount of energy produced depends on the location and amount of direct sunlight. A Typical home rooftop system produces 1 to 10 kilowatts (kW). A minimum of 75 square feet of solar panels is needed to generate each kilowatt of direct current (DC) power during peak solar periods.

While prices can vary, a residential solar system typically averages $3.50 per watt peak capacity of direct current Wp-DC. Watt peak capacity is the maximum of a module under optimal conditions.


Ownership of rooftop systems can vary:

  • The solar system can be owned by the homeowner (or the building’s owner in commercial instances)
  • A leased solar system is often owned by the organization that installs the solar panels

Did You Know?

  • The power that is generated by the rooftop solar system offsets the energy use of the home or building on which it is installed
  • Occasionally, the solar panels and the system may even generate more energy than is used within the home or building; this excess power can be stored in batteries for later use or sent back into our power grid
  • Depending on the size and layout of the building, the number of panels can be increased over time

Community Solar is a perfect option for people who are unable to install rooftop solar. This can be because they don’t own their home, cannot support a solar rooftop system, or don’t want the upfront investment.

Community solar farms are solar power plants that provide electricity to multiple customers/members. The capacity is typically under 1 MW. One community solar farm can power several hundred homes. Cooperatives own and maintain these solar systems.

How It Works

There are usually 2 different methods to how members can participate:

  1. Owning: Member can lease or purchase a select number of panels or shares of the solar farm.
  2. Subscribing: Members can subscribe to the community solar farm. They don’t own any portion of the share, but will benefit from a lower price on their electricity.


People can participate in a solar program without having solar panels on their own roof. The cooperative is responsible for all maintenance and insurance of the solar system. Participating in community solar will help members save money on their electric bill and know that they are helping the environment.

This benefits the cooperative as well, as it is more economical to build one large system versus smaller ones. More members will be able to participate in the program as well. The cooperative can also site the solar farm in a specific location that is most suitable for solar output.

Utility-Scale systems have a capacity of at least 1 MW and higher. Some are defined as utility-scale if they are 5 MW or higher. They are much larger than community solar farms. Their function is different as well. They generate solar power directly into the grid. This supplies a utility with energy.

Most often, the solar facility and a utility will enter into a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). The electricity will be offered at a fixed rate price for a set number of years set forth in the contract. This eliminates higher costs during peak demand.