Alternative energy solutions continue to become more popular throughout the United States for their ability to protect the environment and deliver more energy-efficient solutions to homes and businesses. A grid-tied system (also referred to as an on-grid, grid intertie or grid backfeeding system) is a type of solar system that gets connected to the utility power grid, and such systems have been exploding in popularity in North America in recent years.
Here’s an overview from our team of residential electrical contractors in Alexandria, VA about what you should know about this sort of system.
The benefits of grid-tied systems
One of the biggest advantages associated with grid-tied solar systems is that they allow you to save a significant amount of money. They provide much better efficiency rates, include net metering and have lower costs of equipment and installation than other solar alternatives.
For your solar system to be fully functional when used off the grid, you’ll need a variety of batteries and other standalone equipment that don’t just increase your costs of installation, but also increase the amount of maintenance you have to perform. This makes grid-tied systems cheaper and easier. In addition, you should keep in mind that solar panels you place on your property will generate more electricity than what you’re capable of consuming. With the net metering of grid-tied systems, you can put the excess electricity you don’t use back into the grid rather than storing it yourself, passing on some of the benefits to your community.
The utility grid used in this system acts as a sort of virtual battery. You’ll need to spend the energy in real time, but you can temporarily store it as other forms of energy, such as the chemical energy you’d find in a battery. Energy storage can come with some major losses, but with this electric power grid, you get better efficiency rates. You’d lose much more electricity through a standard, conventional battery system than with a grid-tied system.
Getting your equipment
So, what exactly do you need for a grid-tied system beyond your solar panels? Not as much as you’d need for an off-grid system:
- •Grid-tie inverter (GTI): The inverter regulates the voltage and current you get from your solar panels. Direct current from the panels gets converted into alternating current, the kind of current used for most appliances.
- •Micro-inverters: These smaller inverters are placed on the back of every solar panel you install on your property. This setup exists rather than having a single central inverter that manages the whole solar array. While micro-inverters come with a higher initial expense, they are also significantly more efficient.
- •Power meter: You will likely need to replace the power meter you already have at your home with one that will be compatible with net metering. The meter should be capable of measuring power that goes in both directions.
For more information about grid-tied solar power systems and their advantages, contact Walsh Electric to speak with our residential electrical contractors in Alexandria, VA.