Homeowner Don Born, talks about the solar electricity produced by his grid-tied solar electric array in Waldoboro, Maine

Don Born, a homeowner in Waldoboro, Maine, installs solar panels to save money and feel better about his source of electricity.

Grid-tied solar electricity (or solar photovoltaic electricity, “PV”) allows you to generate your home’s electricity whenever the sun is out; you can either use the solar power as it’s created, or export it to the grid and earn credits. Further, when the rate of electricity goes up, your solar array increases in value proportionally.

  • Lock in a fixed rate for electricity for 30+ years
  • Reduce carbon pollution from coal, oil, gas, and nuclear power plants
  • Less reliance on energy sources “from away” and the power grid

How a Grid-Tied Solar Electric System (With No Battery Backup) Works

How grid tied solar PV works1) Sunshine Hits Panels

Sunlight causes electrons to move through the wiring connecting your home’s solar photovoltaic panels, creating direct current (DC) electricity. Grid-tied photovoltaic arrays require no batteries, no complex wiring, and no moving parts.  Instead, they inter-tie directly with the grid (hence the name) allowing you to use the grid itself as a big battery.

2) Solar inverter converts DC power into AC power

The DC electricity produced by the solar panels is inverted into alternating current (AC) electricity that can be used in your home. The AC electricity flows into your circuit panel and is available for any active electric loads: lights, television, computers, refrigerator, electric vehicles, etc.

3) Excess power is sent to the grid

If your solar photovoltaic production exceeds your demand, then the extra solar electricity is pushed from your home out to the grid. A separate meter tracks this exported electricity. Called net metering, at the end of the month the utility will reconcile the difference between your solar production vs. electrical consumption, and you either earn a credit or are billed accordingly. Earned credits carry forward up to a year. Retail net metering is currently protected and accessible for new customers in all the states where we offer service: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Vermont.

What Happens When the Power Goes Out?

Solar electricity battery system

Installation of the next-gen Sonnen lithium-ion battery storage system at a customer’s home in Concord, New Hampshire. With the addition of batteries, a solar PV system can sustain a home through a power outage.

Because grid-tied systems are grid-dependent, they will shut down when the connection to the utility is lost (this is a safety regulation that prevents PV systems from accidentally backfeeding and injury utility line workers).  However, if you wish to maintain electricity in the event of a power outage, the ability to integrate battery storage with a grid-tied PV array is possible.

Does Solar Work in Winter?

It absolutely does. Shorter days and tougher weather won’t stop your system from working in winter. We at ReVision Energy have been installing solar arrays in New England for over 10 years and have plenty of experience with designing solar arrays to endure everything winter can throw at them, from incredible cold to stacks of snow.

Why Invest in Solar?

People are often surprised to learn that in Maine, New Hampshire, or Massachusetts, the economics of solar energy outperform traditional financial investment products, and with good reason.

Compare solar to an annuity, for instance. An annuity works by offering you a monthly payment for a fixed period of time-based on a pre-determined interest rate, which is around 2% right now. A solar electric system also requires an up-front investment, and offers a monthly “payment,” so to speak, in the form of reduced utility bills for the life of the system.

However, the solar electric investment is pegged to a commodity – electricity – which increases in the order of 2.5-3% each year. With electricity generated from a solar array, you have a flat rate “cost” of electricity that is locked in, meaning you avoid that increasing cost of electricity and save a lot of money over the life of the array, which is more money in your pocket. A financial investment indeed!

What is more though, is that unlike traditional financial investments, a solar investment has many different returns: for instance, a solar array will increase the value of your home by lowering the cost of ownership. An environmental return on your investment is also included as you are eliminating thousands of pounds of carbon pollution each year that you and your community can enjoy. For a closer look at solar economics, head to our guide to going solar.

Solar photovoltaic system ownership comes with a powerful peace of mind: no matter what happens, you own a certain amount of your electric supply. As the cost of electricity increases, you pay no more for the same amount of electricity generated by solar. When the utility rate for power goes up, your solar power is worth proportionally more.

Step Toward Energy Independence 

Solar electricity can power a complement of highly efficient household technologies like battery backup, electric vehicle charging, solar water heating and air source heat pumps – introducing the very real possibility of the 100% Renewable Household. Whether you are just Solar Curious or already committed to making the switch to the solar power, there are plenty of options available and the solar professionals at ReVision Energy are ready to advise you.