As the price of solar panels has come down tremendously over the past few years, more and more homeowners are taking the plunge and purchasing home solar power systems. These systems give homeowners the chance to reduce their energy bills tremendously, an advantage that is becoming ever more important as PG&E and other companies raise electricity rates and introduce time-of-use pricing.
Yet, many homeowners interested in solar power don’t recognize that investing in a solar power system doesn’t allow them to cut the cord from their local energy company.
Solar power systems typically have to be connected to your local energy grid—you don’t actually go ‘off-the-grid.’
Many homeowners have the idea that once they flip the switch on their new solar system, they’ll never see another bill from PG&E or SMUD again. But the reality is that in order to really get the most savings out of your solar power system, you need to be connected to your local power grid. And that’s because of an easily overlooked issue—how do you store the electricity created by your panels?
While the tech behind solar panels is complicated, their practical operation is pretty simple. When the sun is shining, they make electricity. When the sun isn’t, they don’t make electricity. If you happen to be home while the panels are making electricity, then that energy is used to power your lighting, TV, refrigerator, and other gizmos that are powered on. But what if you’re not home, or you’re making more electricity than you’re actually using? Well, if you aren’t using electricity, then the energy generated by the panels doesn’t go anywhere, much like an unconnected battery’s electricity doesn’t go anywhere. That potential electricity is just lost.
And there’s a second important question to ask: if you’re using electricity at night when your solar panels can’t generate electricity, where do you get it from? Well, you don’t want to have to wait until daylight to run your electrical devices, obviously.
Connecting your home solar system to the grid is a great way of using electricity you don’t need, while getting electricity when you need it.
When you make electricity that you don’t use, it’s sent into the grid where other people can use it. And when you need electricity but can’t make it, or enough of it—at night or on a cloudy day—then you can use the power grid.
Obviously, you don’t want to just give the power company your electricity during the day. They certainly won’t give you their electricity at night!
That’s why an arrangement known as net energy metering has been implemented via legislation in many states, including California. Under the net energy metering program, when you provide electricity to your local utility’s grid, they give you a credit for each unit of electricity. Then, when you consume electricity from the grid, the credits you earned are used to pay for that electricity.
However, this isn’t a truly efficient arrangement. Just as you wouldn’t have a place to put electricity you didn’t use if you weren’t connected to the grid, your energy company doesn’t have somewhere to put its excess electricity. The problem is energy companies have access to all sorts of electricity during the day when solar systems are pumping out electricity and homeowners aren’t around to use it, but at night when energy consumption is at its maximum, there’s no extra solar power for energy companies to draw upon. Basically, they have the most extra electricity when they need it the least.
Home battery systems may soon allow you to sell back more electricity to the grid, or even live off the grid entirely!
If you have ever owned a Prius or other hybrid vehicle, then you know that your car has a battery pack that stores the electricity created by the car’s generator, which is then used to supply some or all of the power needed by the car at other times.
Tesla, the electric vehicle manufacturer, as well as many other tech companies around the world, are working on scaling up those battery systems so that they can be used to store enough electricity to power entire homes. Tesla has pushed the energy forward with its Tesla Powerwall and Powerpack lines of home energy storage battery systems.
While these battery systems are prohibitively expensive for most homeowners at the moment, battery manufacturing costs are dropping quickly, and soon it will be realistic for everyone to have their own home battery system to complement their solar system. For energy providers, this will be a big benefit, as battery-driven homes won’t need to draw power at night, or may even be able to sell off some their excess stored power at peak consumption times. There may soon be a time where power companies pay a premium for solar energy that is stored and then sold off at night, allowing homeowners to more quickly recoup their investments.
An added benefit is that homes in areas that tend to lose power frequently will be able to keep the lights on while power grids are down. In fact, Tesla and German battery company Sonnen have been deploying solar panels and batteries to hospitals in Puerto Rico that have been without power since Hurricane Maria hit in September. Residents of Florida who went without power for days after Hurricane Irma hit in September have also been expressing more interest in battery systems.
Solar power systems equipped with batteries will also allow homeowners to finally achieve the dream of cutting ties with their local utility, and living entirely on the free electricity generated by their solar systems and stored in their home batteries.
If you have any questions about how a new solar system or home battery storage system can help you save money, call Gilmore a call at 888-868-2316, or send us a message using our appointment request form. With Gilmore, you can be assured of receiving the Red Carpet Care that our customers have enjoyed for nearly 40 years!