In order to understand what a grid-tied solar system is, you need a basic understanding of what an electrical grid is. In simple terms, an electrical grid is a network of power lines that connect the people who use electrical energy and those who produce electrical energy for them.
Having a grid-tied solar power system means your home’s solar panel system is linked to your local power utility company’s electrical grid. This is the most common type of solar energy system in the United States since the setup does not require batteries. Other names for this type of solar power system are grid-direct, grid-intertied, on-grid and utility-interactive.
Why is a grid-tied solar power system attractive for most people? There are three main factors that make this solar energy system attractive for your residential or business power needs.
Lower Energy Costs
Installing a grid tied solar panel system is a very cost-effective way to meet or even exceed residential or commercial energy needs. The utility grid covers any gaps in energy coverage occasioned by exceptionally bad weather or temporary problems with your system, saving you time and money (and anxiety). Additionally, grid-tied solar systems eliminate the need for batteries and create fewer maintenance or upkeep expenses.
Solar Net Metering
Also, investing in grid tied solar panel installation allows for net metering, the process whereby utility companies credit their customers for any excess electricity generated by that customer’s solar PV system. When the system generates more energy than that customer needs, the extra is fed out to the grid, where other consumers can benefit from it. In return, the utility company will credit the solar PV system owner for the excess energy generated.
Reliability of Solar Power
Once the cost of solar panels is no longer a factor, people often bring up worries about reliability of solar power generation. What happens at night or if it rains? In the past, many thought that people would generate electricity with solar panels and, on sunny days, store the excess in batteries to use at night or on overcast days.
However, the current business model is different. Your home or business remains hooked up the utility company’s electrical grid. At night or on overcast days or anytime that your solar power generation is insufficient for your needs, you draw electricity from the electric grid. This happens automatically and takes no effort on your part.
Then, is the excess solar power of sunny days wasted? No. You profit by an automatic system that sells your excess solar power back into the electrical grid. Your utility company credits you with the sale by winding the readings on your electric meter backwards. You can actually watch it spinning backwards!
Solar Panel Benefits to the Environment
With this new business model, homeowners and businesses can save money by installing solar panels while retaining a reliable supply of electricity. In addition, they can do what many of us have looked forward to ever since we heard about generating solar power on our rooftops — help the environment.
Solar energy, of course, creates no pollution. Every kilowatt that we generate with our solar panels is one less kilowatt that power companies must generate by burning fossil fuels. Actually, one kilowatt generated by solar panels replaces even more than one kilowatt generated by power companies, as, with rooftop solar panels, there are virtually no losses of power due to electric line transmission over long distances.
Replacing fossil fuels for generating electricity creates numerous benefits for the environment. The mining of coal, oil, and gas all harm the environment. Transmission of fossil fuels by pipeline (with possible leaks), or trucks (with resulting air pollution) also harm the environment. Of course, burning these fuels for electrical power, even when burning relatively clean natural gas, also adds pollutants to the atmosphere.
Dependence on foreign oil has major consequences for our economy when conflict in the Middle East erupts. Interruptions in the oil supply raise gasoline and home heating prices and harm our economy. Our dependence on foreign oil also constrains our foreign policy options. Some believe that this has gotten us into wars that we, otherwise, might not have fought. Addiction to foreign oil has been costly to Americans in many ways.
We are currently making good progress in becoming independent of foreign oil. Domestic oil production has increased, energy efficiency measures are working better — including tougher auto gas mileage standards — and sources of clean, green energy are coming on-line. When commercial and home solar panels are installed, they are contributing to our clean, green energy future.
As many people are concerned about our environment and dependence on foreign oil, when one homeowner installs solar panels on their roof, neighbors often follow suit. Seeing that solar panels are for-real and are now affordable in their own neighborhood, they go ahead with what has seemed like a dream for so long — generating our own electricity on our own rooftops.