Types of Photovoltaic Systems
Before you can invest in a solar power system for your home, you'll need to consider what kind of photovoltaic system best suits your needs. Photovoltaic systems are categorized based on how autonomous they are from the electrical grid. Which system you choose will depend on just how green you want to go, as well as when and where you'll be using your solar system.
- Grid inter tied systems integrate solar electricity using the grid as a secondary power source. You are still connected to the electrical grid, but the power coming from your solar panels will allow you to reduce your consumption (and utility bills). This type of system can be smaller, to suit your budget or space constraints, and there's no need to worry about getting enough sun, since you still have the main grid as an alternate power source. On the other hand, if your photovoltaic system produces more energy than you use, many utility companies allow you to feed your surplus energy into the grid and may even give you a credit for it.
- Grid inter tied with battery backup To decrease your dependence on the grid even further, you can add a battery to the system to collect excess solar energy for use when light is low. You're still tied to the grid as a secondary power source, but rather than feeding your surplus into the grid, you store it up for your own later use.
- Off Grid Photovoltaic Systems are not tied to the grid as a secondary power source. This is the extreme green alternative for those who want to eschew commercially generated electricity altogether. Off-grid systems are most useful for summer applications (when there's more sun) and/or for places that have no access to the main grid. Recreational vehicles and remote cottages are prime candidates for this type of system. For practical purposes, especially for primary residences, you would want to have a generator for back-up power in cloudy weather or periods of high energy demand.
Each of these systems, along with the components you'll need to set them up, is discussed in more detail in the following pages.