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Does My Solar PV Installation Have to Be Tied to the Grid?

Following Hurricane Irene, thousands of people across the Northeastern seaboard, including many of EcoOutfitters’ fellow Long Islanders, were without power for many days. The situation, not all that uncommon, caused many people to think about alternative energy sources — not just for the environmental and cost-savings benefits, but as a true “alternate” source of power in the event your home can’t get electric from the grid.

In fact, our very own Raina Russo revealed that many people simply assumed she had electricity in the days following Hurricane Irene just because she has a solar PV array on her home.

Why You Want “the Grid,” Even as a Solar Customer
One of the key benefits to using solar energy to power your home is the savings you get from your electric company when you do, indeed, need to tap into the grid (at night or on cloudy days, for instance). All the “extra” solar power your solar PV array generates when it’s producing power you don’t use is sent back to the grid for others to use. You’ll receive a credit in the form of kilowatt hours. When you need to use electricity from the grid, you’ll pay for it, first, in the form of those credits.

You may even have a “negative” electric bill, especially during the summer months, when the sun is powerful and the days are long.

“Why Shouldn’t I Store My Extra Solar Energy in a Battery System?”
The battery back-up units that are currently used in some solar PV arrays — in very rural areas where customers don’t have a “grid” nearby — are costly. Solar energy is supposed to save homeowners money; that’s a key reason people install solar PV arrays. Installing a battery back-up system eats away those cost savings. That’s the primary reason not to install batteries.

In addition, some experts mention that the batteries used to power “off-the-grid” solar arrays may be dangerous. Whether that’s true or not, they’re definitely not environmentally friendly — especially not when they need to be disposed of.

Is Going “Off-the-Grid” Legal?
In some areas, living off the grid is the only option. But these regions of the U.S. are few and far between (quite literally, as these are the areas where there is no electric provider.) This is a lifestyle choice that some people may choose, and it relates to every aspect of living.

But for the vast majority of people looking to save money with a solar PV array installation, it’s more cost-effective, easier and safer to stay “on-the-grid” and earn money in the form of energy credits you receive from your electric provider.

Post Written by
A full-time freelance writer, Dawn frequently covers energy efficiency, green living, and topics like LED lighting and whole home control systems for a number of blogs and technology trade magazines. Dawn is proud to live in New York as the state vies to beat out New Jersey as the East coast top dog of solar energy and is waiting for the Solar Renewable Energy Certificate legislation to pass before installing solar panels on her Long Island home.

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