Grid-Tied Solar-Electric System

Below you will find a picture showing the basic components of a grid interconnected system.  Sunlight is collected by the photoelectric panels on the roof, which is then funneled into the inverter.  The inverter turns this energy into AC electricity.  When you are not using very much power in your home, this AC electricity is sold to the grid and your meter turns backwards.  However, when you are using lots of power in your home, this AC electricity is used to supply your lights and electronics.  Its all automatic!

A grid-tied solar-electric system uses both solar-electric panels and the electrical grid to power your house. Solar-electric energy is used first so you only buy energy from the grid when it is needed. During the day, when the panels are producing lots of energy, some of it is used to power your house and the rest is sold to the grid. During the night, or on cloudy days, when the panels are not producing that much, some energy is bought from the grid so that you still have enough. Most people buy solar-electric systems that sell just as much as they buy so that at the end of the year their electric bill is zero.

In order for a solar-electric system to produce energy, the panels must be exposed to direct sunlight. Here in new mexico, that means facing them southward at an angle of 15 to 35 degrees. If you have a south facing angled roof, it is probably at a good angle for solar! And if you have a flat roof, angled mounts can be used to make sure the panels are facing correctly. Solar-electric panels turn sunlight into DC electricity. This energy is then sent to an inverter which turns it into AC electricity, which is what everything in your house uses. From the inverter, the AC electricity is used to power your appliances and electric devices.

During the day, when you are producing more energy than you are using, the extra is sold to the grid. This makes your electric meter turn backwards and the electric company will give you credit for how much you sell. You keep getting more and more credit so long as you keep producing. At night, when you are not producing that much energy, you then use these credits to buy electricity to power your house. The way of tracking this buying and selling is called 'Net Metering' and it lets you sell for the same price you buy for. This means that there is no need to store your energy in a battery bank because you can sell it to the grid when you produce it and then buy it back later without the price changing. Additionally, the electric company will pay you Renewable Energy Certificate credits for the energy you produce with your solar-electric panels, even if you use it only to power your house.

Solar-electric panels can be placed on the roof of your house, which saves on space and makes them harder to see, or they can be placed on a mount on the ground. Ground mounted systems take up more space but are cheaper, easier to build, and can sometimes produce more energy. Panels can also be included in carports or sunshades, letting you get the most use out of your purchase. Solar-Electric panels require no cleaning or maintenance, and will won't be damaged by hail or thunderstorms. Placing panels on your roof or in your yard will produce energy for years to come.

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