September 18, 2014
“I want to install solar and totally separate myself from my electric utility!”
While this is a great concept and can be a reality, currently it doesn’t make economic sense in many areas. One of the biggest misconceptions with solar is that you can install a solar array and magically disconnect yourself from the grid. However, since solar is considered on-demand energy, what happens at night when the sun isn’t shining, or during a rainy day when your solar system isn’t producing enough electricity to keep up with your demand?
In order to be “off-grid” (totally separate from your electric grid), you must store the excess energy your solar system produces in batteries, therefore having electricity when you need it, even at 2AM when the sun isn’t shining. Though battery technology is expected to make huge advances in the next several years, the current economics do not provide most of us with an affordable solution.
All of this brings us to the original question: “What will happen to my utility company?” Your utility company isn’t going away anytime soon; however their structure will need to change. Our electrical grid system in the United States will need a major overhaul and is currently under huge strain. In the years to come, solar will help decrease the electrical production needed by power plants to meet the increasing electrical demand in the United States. Instead of constructing “dirty” production sources like coal, solar will create clean energy to fill the increased demand for electricity.
When you install your solar system, it will most likely be connected to the grid. The solar system can produce more than your demand in the daytime, feeding the electricity back to the grid and creating a credit on your electric bill. At night, you can use electricity from the grid, decreasing the credit on your electric bill. This concept is called net metering.Unless battery technology becomes an economically viable solution, you still need the electric utility to help distribute electricity, when the sun isn’t shining.