Other terms commonly used include: “behind the meter”, “Grid-tie/Grid-tied”. Solar installations using this configuration are the simplest and offer the most bang for buck for most customers by not requiring the use of batteries.
Energy produced in this set-up is either consumed by the household or sold back to the local power utility, if enrolled in Net Metering. Since energy is generated using sunlight, this is recommended to offset daytime use of electricity.
A solar power system is composed of many parts or components that each perform specific functions that allows the system to generate electricity. In this configuration, a solar power system is designed to produce electricity to supply what the household is using during daytime. Having no batteries means simpler and more affordable technology, but requires that the electricity be used as produced. The household either uses, loses or exports back electricity to the main grid. In effect, the household saves money by producing its own unit of electricity (measured in kilowatt-hours) rather than buying it from the local power utility.
The process begins with the most visible component which are the photovoltaic (PV) modules or most commonly referred to as “solar panels” which are commonly seen on top of rooftops. These modules have evolved in types, size and even colors but mostly follow a similar concept where photons in sunlight hit a semiconducting material, usually made out of silicon, that causes an electrical current to flow. This is in the form of a Direct Current (DC). Since the modern electrical grid system we use is based on Alternating Current (AC), this needs to be converted by another component called inverters.
Grid-tie inverters are critical components of grid-tie solar power systems, as they not only convert the DC input into usable AC electricity, the inverters also blend the electricity from the solar panels with what’s available from the main grid. Inverters shutdown the system when it does not detect any electricity coming from the local power utility which means this configuration would not allow the household to generate its own electricity during a brownout.
This type of installation is recommended for users who want to save on their electricity bill and are heavy consumers during the hours between 6am and 6pm. It is also important to right size the installation based on the level of consumption of the household since selling back electricity to the local power utility is priced at a lower rate than what would have been the full cost of a kilowatt-hour charged by the utility to the consumer.
Being the simplest, most cost-effective configuration, it is not uncommon to see a return on investment less than five years (more on the financial benefits of solar panels here). Are you ready to get started on installing a grid-tie solar PV system for your home? Check out our free “Get Quote” tool to see reputable service providers in your area and see what options are available for you.