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  • Writer's pictureSecond Opinion Magazine

Why a Grid-Tied Solar System is Often a Better Solution Than an Off-Grid System

by Next Step Energy

Solar electric (photovoltaic) systems use panels composed of semiconductor materials to convert energy from the sun directly into electricity. For many years, this technology has been used to power homes in off-grid applications. Batteries are used to store excess energy produced by the solar system. The stored energy can then be used when the sun is not shining.

In recent years, technology has been developed for grid-connected solar systems. These systems provide energy to the home when the sun is shining and draw energy from the electric grid when the solar energy is not sufficient. The great advantage of this type of system is the grid acts as a kind of “battery.” If more power is being produced than consumed, the excess power flows out onto the power grid through the meter and the utility credits the homeowner’s account in a relationship called net metering. Public utilities and many electric cooperatives in Wisconsin participate in net metering programs. These programs allow users of grid-connected solar systems to reduce their energy bills. When the solar system produces excess electricity, the electric meter spins backward—the customer is only charged for the net usage of electricity.

Pros and Cons of Grid-Tied vs. Off-Grid Systems

Most people are not able to allocate the time and energy needed to for care for batteries.

The lifetime cost of batteries is generally equal to the cost of a monthly utility hook-up fee.

More of the potential energy ends up being used annually with a grid-tied system.

People do not need to adjust their lifestyle to adapt to a grid-tied system. Most people tend to use large amounts of energy, and a grid-tied system doesn’t need to be sized to cover 100 percent of the energy needs.

The initial investment cost per kW hour is usually substantially less with a grid-tied system.

Burning fossil fuels does not address energy independence.

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