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How to Understand Solar Systems On grid Off grid & Hybrid

How to Understand Solar Systems On grid Off grid & Hybrid

Published on:
May 2, 2024

Solar systems can be divided into three types: on-grid, off-grid, and hybrid. On-grid systems connect to the utility grid and work like regular power sources.

Off-grid systems operate independently of the grid, providing power independently. Hybrid systems combine elements of both on-grid and off-grid systems.

Today, we will understand solar, on-grid, off-grid, and hybrid systems.

Solar panel systems use solar panels to capture sunlight. These panels contain special cells that turn sunlight into electricity. The electricity produced is initially in direct current (DC). An inverter converts this into the alternating current (AC) used in homes.

The AC electricity powers your home’s appliances and devices. If your solar panels make more electricity than you use, the extra can go back into the grid or be stored for later.

Some systems can be connected to the grid; you might get credits for any extra electricity you produce. Monitoring tools can help you see how much electricity your system makes and how much you use. Regular maintenance keeps everything running smoothly.

Main Components of Solar Energy Systems

All solar energy systems work the same way. First, solar panels turn sunlight into electricity using the photovoltaic (PV) effect.

This electricity is in the form of direct current (DC). It can be stored in a battery or changed into alternating current (AC) by solar inverters, which homes use to power appliances.

Depending on the system, extra solar power can return to the grid for credits or be stored in batteries.

Solar Panels

Modern solar panels, also called solar modules, use many silicon-based PV cells to make DC electricity from sunlight.

These cells are connected inside the panel and to other panels with cables. It’s sunlight, not heat, that creates electricity in solar cells.

How much energy is made depends on how the panels are set up, their efficiency, and whether they’re shaded or dirty. There are many solar panel brands, so it’s good to know how to pick the best ones.

Solar Inverters

Solar panels make DC electricity, which needs to be converted to AC electricity for homes and businesses.

That’s what solar inverters do. In ‘string’ inverters, panels are connected in a series, and the DC power goes to the inverter, which converts it to AC power.

In microinverter systems, each panel has a micro-inverter that converts DC to AC on the roof and sends the power to the electrical system.

Solar Batteries

A solar battery is used for storing solar energy. There are two main types: lead-acid (AGM & Gel) and lithium-ion.

Most systems today use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that can be shaped and sized differently. Lithium-ion batteries can give back about 90% of their power daily, while lead-acid batteries only do 30% to 40% to make them last longer.

Off-grid systems need unique inverters and bigger batteries, while hybrid systems use smaller batteries for shorter storage times.

Electricity Switchboard

In a regular grid-tie solar system, AC electricity from the solar inverter goes to the switchboard to power the home’s circuits and devices.

This is called net metering, where extra power can go back to the grid through an energy meter or be stored in a battery if it’s a hybrid system. Some places use ‘gross metering’ where all solar power goes to the grid.

Hybrid systems can send extra electricity back and store some in a battery. Some hybrid inverters can be connected to a backup switchboard, so essential things can stay powered without grid electricity.

Three Primary Types of Solar Power Systems

  • On-grid system: also known as a grid-tie or grid-feed solar system
  • Off-grid system: also known as a stand-alone power system (SAPS)
  • Hybrid system: grid-connected solar system with battery storage

On-Grid System

Homes and businesses commonly use on-grid or grid-connected solar systems. These systems use solar or microinverters and connect to the public electricity grid.

The solar power generated is usually used to power your home or business. Any extra solar energy you produce is sent back to the electricity grid, and you may receive payment through a feed-in tariff (FiT) or credits.

Unlike hybrid or battery systems, on-grid solar systems cannot operate during a blackout for safety reasons. Blackouts often happen when the electricity grid is damaged.

If solar inverters continue to feed electricity into a damaged grid, it could endanger repair workers.

However, most hybrid solar systems with battery storage can automatically disconnect from the grid (islanding) and still provide some power during a blackout.

Batteries can be added to on-grid systems later if needed. The Tesla Powerwall 2 is a popular AC battery system that can be added to almost any existing solar system.

After electricity reaches the switchboard, excess solar energy goes through the meter, which calculates how much power you export or import.

Net Metering systems vary by location. For example, in Australia, meters are usually used to measure only exported electricity. In some states, meters measure all solar electricity produced before reaching the switchboard.

Different metering systems exist in the US, depending on the state. In California, a new Net Billing Tariff (NBT) measures net exported solar energy, crediting consumers for exported electricity.

Other consumers, such as your neighbors, use electricity sent to the grid from your solar system. When your solar system isn’t generating enough power (like at night), or you need more electricity than your system produces, you start using power from the grid.

Off-Grid Systems

An off-grid system operates independently without being connected to the electricity grid, requiring batteries to store power. These systems must be well-designed to produce sufficient energy throughout the year, especially in winter with less sunlight.

Off-grid solar systems are more expensive than on-grid systems because of the high cost of batteries and inverters.

They are typically used in remote areas far from the grid, but as battery costs decrease, there is a growing market for off-grid solar systems, even in cities and towns.

AC-coupled off-grid solar systems use a solar inverter and multi-mode battery inverter. There are different types of off-grid systems, including AC-coupled and DC-coupled systems.

In DC-coupled systems, a solar charge controller manages battery charging, and DC power is converted to AC using an off-grid inverter for home appliances.

In an off-grid system, there is no public electricity grid. Appliances use Solar power directly, storing extra energy in a battery bank.

When the battery is complete, the system reduces solar power usage. Appliances run on battery power at night or when the solar system isn’t generating power.

When batteries are low, or the weather is cloudy for several days, a backup power source like a generator is needed. The generator size should be sufficient to power the house and charge the batteries simultaneously.

Hybrid Solar Systems

A hybrid system combines solar panels with solar battery storage. These systems are available in various types and configurations and benefit from the decreasing cost of batteries.

They allow homes already connected to the electricity grid to use battery storage. This means storing solar energy generated during the day and using it at night. When the stored energy runs out, the grid is a backup, giving consumers flexibility.

Hybrid systems often charge batteries using cheaper off-peak electricity, typically from midnight to 6 am.

In a hybrid system:

  • Home appliances use solar power. Extra power goes to the battery bank.
  • Once the battery bank is complete, it stops receiving solar power. Excess solar energy is exported to the grid.
  • Battery energy can be used during peak evening hours when electricity costs are high.

Depending on the setup and utility rules, excess solar power can be exported to the grid when batteries are fully charged. Appliances draw power from the grid when solar energy and battery power are unavailable.

Choosing the Right Solar System for You

Typically, a basic grid-tied system is the most cost-effective choice. Due to their lower initial cost and straightforward design, these systems offer a good return on investment.

However, a hybrid system might be more suitable in certain situations, especially if you experience frequent power outages. A solar panel system with battery storage could be ideal if you prioritize energy independence and maximize renewable energy use.

Off-grid systems are generally less practical for regular homeowners but can be perfect for remote locations or mountain cabins.

The best way to determine the ideal solar system for your needs is to contact local solar companies. They will have the expertise to recommend the right system for your area and help you make the most of your solar panels.

Moving Forward with Solar Emporium

Solar Emporium has a proven track record of quick, smooth, and dependable installations. We offer complete solutions for both residential and commercial energy needs.

Our approach includes smart combinations of solar kits featuring carefully designed and pre-engineered components, which streamline the installation process and provide a strategic advantage.

Our solar kits include high-efficiency solar panels that deliver several benefits, such as increased solar energy yield and a 25-year linear guarantee. Our inverters are top-grade and ensure efficient energy conversion in various systems.

Get a free solar quote today to learn more about Solar Emporium and our products!

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