Solar power offers many benefits to home and property owners, most notably a reduction in electricity costs and usage. However, there are other benefits that are dependent on the type of system you choose, and it is important to weigh the pros and cons of grid-tied solar power systems and off-grid systems, in order to select the solar power option that is right for you.
Grid-tied solar power systems are the most common type of solar electric system in the United States and most parts of the world. This type of system is attached, or “tied” to the existing electrical grid. Electricity that is generated by the solar array that is not used by the needs of the house or business flows freely back to the grid, and to the utility company. The household or commercial property that benefits from the system is credited for the electricity generated by the solar panels. As long as the solar array generates more electricity than the household consumes, the electricity will be free. If the household or business consumes more electricity than is generated, it will be billed for only the excess consumption while greatly reducing their power bill by using the solar generated power first.
Grid-Tied Solar PV Systems
The features of a solar power system that are exclusive to grid tied installations include the possibility to earn, sell, and generate revenue from Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs). In this case, the utility company will pay you for the electricity your home generates. In instances where the solar array is not generating enough electricity to power the home, the electrical grid will supply electricity whenever needed. This is great news for home owners who may not have enough sun exposure or space on their property for all of the panels required to power their home, because they can still discount their current electricity rates, and reduce their environmental impact.
Off-Grid Solar PV Systems
An off-grid system has several different features as well. This type of solar electric system is not connected to the electrical grid. Instead, it relies on batteries to store the electricity generated by the solar panels for use when the system is not generating enough to sustain household functions, for example, at night. Because it is completely separate from the electrical grid, the power will remain on for the household or building even in the event of a widespread power outage; in a grid-tied scenario, the solar power system must shut off during a power outage for safety reasons. However, it is important to consider the space required to store the batteries, as well the added expense to purchase them. Additionally, off-grid systems cannot take advantage of SRECs, because the electricity never flows back to the utility grid.
When choosing a solar power system, it is important to decide which benefits are the most important to you. If going off the grid, and want to remain powered on even when the rest of the neighborhood is enduring a power outage, an off-grid system may be the right solution for you. Otherwise, a grid-tied system may be the best choice. A qualified solar analyst will be able to discuss your particular needs, and find a solution that is tailored for your home.