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Your On-Grid Solar Choices

This group gives you 3 choices: Grid Tied, Grid Backup, or Grid Assist

Grid Tied Solar

Grid Tied is a system where you have Solar Panels that generate electrical energy during the day and you (sell) this energy to your power company and then buy it back at night. This way you attempt to eliminate all or part of your electric bill.

However, this is definitely the least expensive type of solar electric system because you do not need to buy any storage (batteries) equipment. It is simply solar panels and an inverter to make AC electricity from the DC generated by the solar. With these few components you simply push the energy you make to the power grid during the sun hours and buy it back at night

Electric companies have cleverly strived to make it less attractive for you and more profitable for themselves however, by buying power from you at wholesale and selling the same energy back to you at retail. In this way attempting to make solar a less attractive investment by making you system more expensive to procure.

The real problem with a straight Grid-Tied System is when the grid loses power, you have no power (no access to the stored power you sold to the grid). Rolling blackouts in California come to mind or hurricanes in the gulf and the east cost can be a problem too, causing you to have to utilize an expensive to run and maintain backup generator.

Due to the public’s lack of knowledge, the Grid-tied system has remained the most common type of solar electric system in North America today. In the end, it is still a plus for the environment, as the power is ultimately generated from a renewable source offsetting natural gas and coal fired power generation.

Grid Tied with Battery Backup

Or simply Battery Backup

As the name implies, with this type of system you have the storage facility of you own to fall back on with a power failure. With the rolling backouts and disruptions, more and more we are seeing a real need to be more independent, to take the steps necessary to care for the needs of our loved ones and ourselves.

This actually does not even require a grid tied solar setup the system can also be standalone without any solar at all! We can easily design this automatic back-up electrical system that will respond immediately to a power failure or a total blackout keeping some or all of the electrical circuits in your house in a constant state of uninterruptable power for medical emergencies or security systems or life dependent medical devices.

This backup system and easily be incorporated into an existing grid-tied system to give you the security and peace of mine knowing your power will never go out.

With this type of system, you have energy freedom, you are not dependent on the grid. If the grid loses power, your system automatically keeps your electricity on at your house by using the energy stored in your battery bank. This can be vitally important for those dependent on life giving medical devices, or even for people with security concerns.

Grid-Assisted Systems

Power companies will never stop trying to dissuade folks from going solar. Their lobbyists will keep banging away at legislatures with their agendas. The power companies have everyone on a LIFETIME PAYMENT PLAN and they don’t want to give it up. They will never have the public good at heart.

Power companies in California cooked up the latest, of a long list of urban legends and myths. The current flavor is “those awful people going solar are making electricity more expensive for the rest of us”. They want to argue with folks that the solar people are not paying their "fair share"  but, it is just part of this coordinated push to discredit solar.

Currently the focus of residential solar is shifting away from “Grid-Tied” systems. Grid-tied is what all the Grid tied installation and leasing corporations are sending salesmen running through neighborhoods trying to sell,  it is getting harder to sell, because people are not stupid and they realize that if they have to ask permission for anything from the local power company, at any moment the rules could change. It will never be in the publics favor.

Grid-Zero or Grid Assisted solar systems are an appliance that runs your house “Off-Grid” while remaining hooked to the grid. So, if you ever need a little more energy than you can produce the system very judiciously “buys” a little from the power company and then shuts them off.

The advantages are many, first your bill goes to near zero or wherever you set it at. Second when there’s a power outage the electricity in your house stays on. Third you don’t have to ask permission to do it. Fourth the only cost is the equipment itself. there are no fees, usually no permits or engineering drawings required.

What is in an Off Grid Solar System?

First, we should start with a fully tested, factory pre-wired Power Center, which includes a complete Inverter / Charge Controller system with all the necessary components properly wired to seamlessly function together. To this we add all the rest of the components to round out a fully functional independent solar electric system.

What equipment completes the whole system?

  1. Solar Panels
  2. Storage Batteries
  3. Power Panel
  4. Solar Panel Racking and Mounting
  5. Additional components for Off Grid (i.e. Generator, Well Pump, Appliances Water Filtration etc.)

Solar Modules (solar panels)

Solar Modules take the radiation from the sun and convert it into electricity. When a solar system is properly designed, we first determine the size of battery storage needed for the expected load.

Next, we size the Solar Modules to be able to charge the battery bank typically for 8 to 9 months of the year from solar alone. This is determined by the number of “Sun Hours” at your location.

The few winter months require supplementation by either a Generator, or wind turbine or a hydro turbine. This way you do not have a situation where you have way too much solar in the summer months.

Storage Batteries

Solar will power hour house during the day but, the sun goes down at night, so you will need a reserve of energy to get your house through the night. That is what your battery bank does. Batteries can also help during days of heavy overcast from clouds.

The Power Center (the heart of the system)

Pre-wired Power Panels (Power Centers) from the Factory are the way to go for many good reasons. They are done right, and they save hours of installation time. They are completely bench tested and warranted by the manufacturer. They come with a complete wiring diagram for easy connection to the other system components.

The equipment includes the Inverter(s) the System Controller / Monitor, Distribution Panel (DC and AC breaker box[s]), Charge Controller(s), Mounting plate and Circuit Breakers

Don’t do-it-yourself. There is nothing worse than planning to wire up your power panel yourself on the weekend only to find you don’t quite understand the factory manual, or worse yet you forgot to get all the required small parts. If it’s the weekend, there’s no tech support to call and if this off-grid you are probably fifty miles down a bad road from the now closed electrical supply house.

You are not going to have any problem with your electrical inspector because it’s a complete factory wired unit.

Other Off Grid Products and Components

The Solar Power System gives you the energy needed for Independent Living, but you will need other equipment suited for Off Grid living like appliances, Water Pumps, Storage Tanks, Water Filters, A Back-up Generator

Solar Module Mounting and Racking

There are several ways to mount your solar modules. Most pictures show panels mounted on a roof and, this may be the only choice for urban areas, with small yards. I am not fond of putting holes in a roof, if it is not necessary. Also, most houses are not oriented to “Solar South” which can greatly compromise the Solar Panel output.

Off Grid is typically in “the country” where you have plenty of room to choose the best solar gain location. In these instances, a customized pole mount or a locally welded rack would make the most sense.

RV and Marine

The main difference between Marine and Recreational Vehicle solar electric systems and Off-Grid home or cabin solar electric systems, is that Marine and RV systems rarely have enough space for the solar panel array necessary to meet their needs.

While they may be able to accommodate the necessary battery bank for their electrical loads, the problem of adequately keeping the batteries charged typically falls to a fossil fuel generator and “shore power” along with however much solar that can fit into the small amount of real estate available.

Also boats and RVs have special grounding considerations. But, in every other aspect the equipment necessary to provide power is pretty much the same.  

The solar modules, mounting hardware for them, the storage battery or bank of batteries, solar charge controller(s), an inverter to provide AC power, a battery monitoring system, a system controller to program the various components to maintain the system, usually a communication system between the various equipment and lastly and most importantly protection for all the circuits which includes surge suppression and circuit breakers and some sort of enclosure to house them. 

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