The 4 Types of Residential Solar Electric Systems
What are the differences between the different styles of solar electric system? Can you have both???
Pictured above: The Bartlett Project. A small grid-tied residential system utilizing SolarEdge's HD Wave Inverter!
You want solar! But what do you ask a solar professional when trying to receive quotes for your solar electric system?
It is important to understand that in reality there are 4 styles of solar electric systems available for purchase that satisfy the specific needs of homeowners and businesses.
Grid Tied- This system consists of 2 major components. Solar panels produce direct current (DC) energy, and the inverter which converts direct current (DC) energy into AC or alternating current which the electrical grid uses to power homes. This style of system should be considered an investment as this system serves one purpose, to sell power back to the electric grid in order to offset the usage from your home. Rarely will you find a grid-tied inverter that is capable of providing power to any normal house load. This system cannot run things around your house, but it can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the lifetime of your solar electric system.
Off Grid (Battery Based)- An offgrid solar electric system has solar panels and uses inverters too, so what's the difference? An offgrid system is not connected to the electrical grid and provides power directly to the loads in your home. This system must have two additional components though. A battery bank is needed to store the energy produced by the solar electric system and a charge controller must be present to provide a smooth charging voltage and amperage for the battery bank. Often times, the charge controller will be built into the off-grid inverter. This system is a significantly higher upfront cost than a grid-tied system because batteries are fairly expensive and can sometimes double the total cost of a solar project.
Bimodal- This style of solar electric system is the best of both worlds. A special kind of inverter is used which can function as both a grid-tied inverter and an off-grid inverter, providing power to loads through a battery bank while selling excess electricity that is not being used by the home to electric grid.
Hybrid- A hybrid solar electric system can be grid-tied, off-grid, or even bimodal! Then what makes a system a hybrid system? The answer is that this system has addition of another power source which would help the battery bank in providing power to the home. This additional power source could be a natural gas generator or a wind turbine for example. These systems have automated transfer switches which allow the homeowner to switch between power sources when necessary. These systems can provide the extra power needed in the winter to run an entire home without interruption!
There you have it! Four types of solar electric systems which provide their own solutions to homeowners electrical and financial needs. If you are interested in seeing how one of these styles of systems could benefit you, please feel free to reach out to us at AgVolts.com. We look forward to meeting you and discussing your energy needs!