How Grid-Tie Systems Work
Grid-tie systems - also known as tie-grid or on-grid systems - are solar electric systems that are
semi-autonomous and link to the utility grid.
The essence here is to transmit surplus power produced back to the grid, either in a net-metering arrangement or
The solar system will collect solar energy through the panels, which then is transformed into direct current.
The direct current is then converted to alternating current by inverters.
The current is then run though the alternating panel feeding into the utility’s grid. If your solar array
produced more power than your home is consuming, then your meter will start to run backward. Solar power is often
first prioritized for home power needs.
A grid-tie system’s basic components include:
- Solar panels (Homemade solar
panels) - which collect the solar energy. The amount of power you need to generate determine the size and
number of panels to use.
- Combiner box - it collects all the solar panel connections
- Inverter - converts direct current to usable alternating current.
- DC breaker box - the solar array breaker safely shuts off the solar electric system within moments,
for risk-free repair, maintenance and inspection.
- Grid disconnect - this one halts current flow between the solar and the electrical systems for proper
maintenance of either system.
A standard set up for a grid-tie system does not include storage batteries, which tend to increase the necessity
for maintenance. The grid, on the other hand, is a more efficient ‘battery‘.
Integration and net-metering
Many residential grid-tie systems are designed as ‘net-zero’ power usage homes as the system’s principal goal.
That means that the home will accrue a credit with the utility company when its meter reads backwards. This is
during peak, when home power consumption is minimal while production is high. Then at night, there are more power
loads at home and the credit is used up.
Based on this premise, the home will build up an overall credit with the utility during long summer months when
there’s maximum solar energy. The credit will be consumed during winter months. At the end of the year, if you
still have credit - meaning the solar system produced a surplus - the residence gets paid by the utility, usually
at a wholesale rate.
Some grid-tie systems can be backed up by batteries. When grid power is available, the system will work in the
normal grid-tie set up of net-zero usage. However, in cases when grid power is unavailable, for some reason, the
solar system will continue to supply power using the battery backup during the day. At night, with heavy power
loads, the battery will supply power to select circuits within the home, and when the grid is back on, the system
will automatically revert to grid-tie setting.
Grid-tie systems help you save greatly on energy bills, especially since these systems take advantage of
‘peak-hours’ rates during the day, where you sell power at higher rates and buy it later cheaply during ‘off-peak’
There are rebate programs in many states, meaning that over 50% of initial costs are paid for. This means that
payback for the initial investments comes down to a few years. In addition, if energy rates go up (as it is the
trend currently), your investment will pay itself off faster as your home will not be much affected by the increase
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