So How Do Solar Energy Systems Work?
Solar energy systems harness the power of the sun by absorbing the sun’s energy via photovoltaic cells (photo = light, voltaic = relating to electric) found within solar panels. These Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Systems convert photons (particles of light) into DC (Direct Current) electricity. However, you can’t use DC electricity to power your home or office. You need AC electricity (Alternating Current). That’s where additional equipment comes into play.
Your solar panels need to be connected to inverters. These inverters are powerhouses in their own right and often considered “the brains” of your solar power system. Inverters convert DC power into AC electricity. The AC electricity from the inverter is then connected to your electrical breaker to power your appliances and/or other electrical needs. Depending on the type of inverter and the configuration of your system, inverters can also provide data monitoring services. They can also optimize your system, sending excess power either back to your utility company (known as net metering) or to your own solar batteries for your future use.
Sounds Complicated. Don’t Worry, It’s Not.
All you really need to know is:
- Solar panels convert sunlight into Direct Current (DC) electricity.
- An inverter then changes the DC to Alternating Current (AC) electricity.
- The AC is then connected to your home’s existing electrical system for you to use.
It’s that simple.
What Else Do I Need to Know About Solar?
There are other terms to know when deciding if a solar energy system is right for you including:
What is Net Metering?
Net metering, an incentive offered by many states, allows you to store the excess electricity you produce with solar and use it as a future credit from your local utility provider.
Here’s how it works:
- During the day your system may be producing more electricity than you need. That’s good. You can use it at night and/or when it’s raining.
- If your solar energy system is tied to the grid (a utility company), the inverter sends the excess energy to the utility company for “later use”.
- That “later use” is an actual credit on your bill that you can use when you need additional power. Consider it spinning your electric meter backward! With most utility companies, you are billed the difference between what you produce and what you have used. In many cases – your electric bill can be as low as $13-17/per month, depending upon your electric utility company.
Depending on your home’s consumption and available space, Hilton Head Solar can determine the amount of power you can replace with solar panels.
What is a Grid-Tied System?
A grid-tied system is basically any solar power system that is directly connected to a utility power system (grid). Normally, a grid-tied system is a net-metered system. Other grid-tied systems can be systems in which we offset your day-time loads.
A grid connection will typically allow you to save even more money with your solar panel system through higher efficiency rates, the ability to capitalize on net metering and lower equipment and installation costs.
Benefits of Grid-Tied Systems:
- Often with solar power installations, your solar panels will generate more electricity than you can use in real-time. Utilizing net metering, you can divert this excess electricity to the utility company for later use instead of storing it yourself in a solar battery.
- Electricity has to be spent in real-time. Therefore, the power grid is basically a virtual storage device for you to use later and/or during rainy or cloudy days.
- It’s less expensive than off-grid solar systems – requiring less equipment and lower installation costs.
What are Solar Batteries?
Solar Batteries – when tied to a solar panel system, allow you to store the excess energy your system produces. They work by converting the DC energy generated by your solar panels and store it as AC power for later use. The bigger the battery, the more power you can store.
Benefits of Solar Batteries
- You can store excess solar electricity at your home instead of sending it back to the grid (a benefit in areas without net metering)
- You can draw from your battery for night-time use vs. pulling electricity from the power company. (You’ll only draw electricity from the grid when your battery is depleted).
- They also offer short-term backup power in the event of a power outage
- In areas without an electric provider available, batteries can enable the use of electric lighting and appliances without needing to purchase fuel.
- Batteries can be installed with connections to your solar panels and connections to your power grid. You can choose how you want to charge your battery system.
Hilton Head Solar can offer battery solutions customized for your situation, whether net-metered or not, and connected to an electricity provider or not. All of our battery solutions include grid monitoring and automatic power switching, enabling the most seamless change from grid connection to battery backup