Understanding Solar Power Options: Off-grid vs. Grid-tied Systems

If you’ve been contemplating adding solar power to your home or business, you’ve probably heard of grid-tied and off-grid systems. Both types use photovoltaic cells to turn sunlight into electricity. The principal difference between them is that the first is connected to the local utility’s electric grid while the second is not, but the functional differences go a bit deeper. Here are the implications for choosing between these setups.

Grid-Tied Solar

Grid-tied solar systems capture the sun’s energy whenever it’s available. Because they’re also linked to the power grid, however, your property can still receive energy from the utility company at night and on overcast days, or any time your energy consumption exceeds the system’s production.

Power can flow in both directions between your system and the grid, and if you generate excess power, you can sell it to the utility company to minimize the costs of your future consumption.

Off Grid Solar

Off-grid systems must create more power than grid-tied solar alternatives because their users don’t have the luxury of switching to utility service when they need backup. These setups incorporate their own energy storage units in the form of battery banks, which can tide you over when the sun isn’t shining sufficiently to meet your power needs.

Which System Should You Choose?

While both types of systems require many of the same basic components, grid-tied systems are less costly to install, mainly because they don’t include battery banks or charge controllers. On the other hand, users of these systems have to pay for the electricity they obtain from the grid and are subject to the policies of the utility company.

Your electricity company might make it less profitable to sell back your power by modifying its net metering rates and agreements. Or it could demand that consumers jump through extra hoops and pay additional surcharges to connect their solar energy installations to the grid.

Off-grid solar systems are more appropriate for remote locations where the cost of running a transmission line to the property would be prohibitively expensive. They also makes sense in industrial settings that can provide their own backup power from on-site generators.

Remember, though, that most off-grid users need to be more careful about their consumption habits. If you exceed the capacity of an unconnected solar energy system, you may not have anything to fall back on.

Ultimately, your choice of solar system should reflect your needs. Even more than installation cost, your long-term usage requirements and habits will be the most relevant limiting factors in your energy-generating future.

To learn more about the benefits of solar power and discuss the best solution for your situation in Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey or Delaware, contact TerraSol Energies today.