1301 W Parks Hwy, Wasilla, AK 99654

Grid Tie Solar Basics

Alaska Solar Supply, LLC is all about custom systems. When you understand the basics power system suited for your specific goals, you can confidently choose the option that gives you all the comfort, security, and convenience you want and need, anytime, anywhere.

The straightforward grid-tied solar system is currently the most popular choice for both homes and businesses. Grid-tied simply means this type of system is connected to, and relies on, the existing utility electrical grid as an essential system component.

A grid-tied solar electric system – also referred to as grid-tied PV (photovoltaics) – uses solar panels and other components to turn sunlight into electricity for your use, while your home remains hooked up to the local utility. An array of solar panels is installed (usually in the roof of the building) and connected to the homes electrical systems. The electricity is first used to power the homes immediate electrical needs.

When those needs are met, the additional electricity is sent out to the grid through your utility meter. In this instance, your utility grid functions as a part of the overall solar system , which why it is referred to as grid-tie solar. This is different from an off-grid, or stand-alone, solar system where your structure is not hooked up to utility power.

Once the electricity goes into the grid, your utility company tracks the energy sent into the grid from your solar production. What credit you get for your energy depends on your local regulations and utility company’s rules. Whether or not your are using an installer, it is important to know how to best take advantage of your local programs to get the best return on your investment in solar.

Because grid-tie solar is able to take advantage of a wide range of benefits and is also virtually maintenance-free, it is clear to see why it is currently the most commonly installed solar system on residential homes!

Benefits of Grid-Tie Solar System

Grid-tied solar systems are extremely popular because they guarantee your investment.

  • Grid-tied systems are eligible for a 26% federal income/investment tax credit as well as a sales tax exemption. This applies to the total cost of the installation – not just the equipment.
  • You see savings on your immediate electrical costs as the solar is activated and starts producing electricity. This is why the most common reason people install a solar grid-tie system is to reduce their utility bills. Once your system is operating, the power it provides is free and there is little to no maintenance required.
  • Solar system owners are protected against increasing utility prices on electricity for the life of the system. Generally this is minimum of 30 years, and there are many systems still working that are 40+ years old.
  • Solar increases a property’s value and resale appeal as soon as you have solar, this solar premium takes effect. Solar makes a home more attractive to potential buyers, particularly when compared to an otherwise identical home. This can make a big difference should you decide to sell your home in a tight real estate market.
  • Grid-tie systems can easily be designed as grid-hybrid systems, by adding batteries and possibly a generator that will provide backup power for selected items in your house that you consider essential. Grid hybrid solar systems combine the production and financial advantages of a grid-tied system, with the convenience and security of backup power that is available when your utility power goes out.

Off-Grid Solar System Basics

1. Solar Panel (PV Module)

Solar panels or modules are made of solar cells. A solar cell is an electrical device that converts the energy of light directly into electricity (DC) using the photovoltaic effect. The process of conversion first requires a material which absorbs the solar energy (photon), the produces electrons, which the flow to an external circuit. Silicon which is a key component used in the production of PV modules, is one such material that uses this process.

2. Charge controller

Charge controllers may also be called solar regulators. These components regulate the amount of energy that is passed on to the battery bank. Some charge controllers/solar regulators have additional features, such as low voltage disconnect (LDV), a separate circuit which remove loads (energy draws) when the battery becomes overly discharged, and additional circuitry that eliminates potential overcharging; both of which reduce the life of the battery banks.

3. Battery Bank

This stores the energy produced by the solar panels allowing it to be used on, demand – day or night, sunny or cloudy. Properly engineered off-grid systems ensure that there is enough energy produced and stored to provide ample average power throughout the power producing and non-producing cycles. When it comes to solar battery banks, each is designed for a specific charge or discharge level. Some are manufactured wet cells, manufactured sealed or gel cells, each coming with their own set of pro/cons. Costs of battery banks varies significantly, however battery performance and service life are a key consideration in any solar system installation.

4. Inverter

An inverter’s basic function is to “invert” the direct current (DC) output (the power from the PV modules) into alternating current (AC). AC is the standard used by all commercial appliances, which is why many view inverters as the “gateway” between the photovoltaic (PV) system and the energy consuming ads.

5. Mounting

There are several popular ways to mount the solar panels. However, the most important consideration is to locate the panels where they will receive the most year around direct sunlight with minimum shading. Winter consideration is the most important. Wall mounts on south faxing wall if adequate area is available. Ground mounts on homemade or commercial mounting. Pole mounts with single pole and solar racking on top is commonly used. Last and least effective is a roof mount.

6. Balance of systems

This includes combiner boxes, junction boxes, breakers, fuses, wiring/cabling, grounding, and other misc. items.

7. Load evaluation

The most important part of a properly designed system is the listing of all electrical devices that will be used, their watt consumption and amount of time used each day.

Alaska Solar Supply will help you get a properly designed system, obtain quality components, and install if needed.