Understanding Residential Solar Installations Before You Get Connected

What to Know if You Want to Put Solar Panels on Your House

Flagpole, September 2, 2015. Image credit: MinkS

Most residential solar installations are grid-connected: Your panels generate DC electricity and an inverter converts it to AC and synchronizes it with the power on the grid. While we will soon see more battery storage systems like the Tesla Powerwall, battery storage has historically been only cost effective as an alternative to long power lines to remote locations.

Until recently, there have been two types of solar grid connections in Georgia. One uses two meters—one to record the solar energy fed to the grid and another to record energy consumed by your house. You pay your normal bill for the power you use, and you are paid for the power you put onto the grid. Early adopters in Georgia Power’s limited solar buyback program got paid about $0.17 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). The new Advanced Solar Initiative is easier to get into, but has a lower feed-in tariff.

Less common is a net-metering scenario, where a bi-directional meter spins forward when you consume more than you generate, and backward when you generate a surplus. You pay (or get paid) for the monthly net balance, but for the most part in Georgia, any net production is paid at the utility’s avoided cost, which is much lower than the retail rate that you pay.

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