Most of our customers’ solar installations are grid-tied, which means they are connected to the utility. The solar panels on their roof- or ground-mounted arrays collect energy from the sun and generate DC electricity, which is converted to AC electricity and used for their homes’ electricity needs. Any excess energy is fed through their utility meters and into the electrical grid for other utility customers to use.
Benefits of Grid-Tied Solar Electric System
One great thing about being grid-tied is that it allows for net metering, which is the way the electric utility pays you back for excess electricity generated by your grid-tied solar system. The electric company credits your account for the electricity you contribute, spinning your meter backwards.
Another advantage of grid-tied solar systems are the financial incentives that offset part of the cost of going solar. Currently, the federal government offers a 30% income tax credit for grid-tied solar systems. Many state and local governments also offer incentives, commonly in the form of rebates and power generation credits.
Will Grid-Tied Solar Electric Systems Work During a Blackout?
The downside of a grid-tied solar system is that if the power goes out, you will be in the same boat as your neighbors. During a power interruption, your solar system’s inverter has a safety feature that shuts it down when it senses the lack of AC voltage from the utility. This prevents electricity from your solar panels from electrocuting technicians working on the power lines.
So even though your array may be producing power, you won’t be able to use it during a blackout.
While it’s possible to purchase a solar system with an additional inverter and battery bank, it greatly increases the cost (by about $15-$25K). With this setup, if the grid is down, the system will still charge your battery backup system. The size of your battery backup system would be determined by the load you would expect to meet during power outages. The price would vary depending on the number of appliances you want to run and the duration you’d want to be able to remain autonomous from the grid.
A grid-tied solar system is a great way to pay the utility less for electricity. But in the event of a power outage, the most economical solution for most people is to use a gas-powered generator for imperative electricity demands until the utility is back up and running.
If you would like to learn more, call 888.56.SOLAR or schedule your free solar evaluation.