Solar offers more than just an opportunity to reduce your carbon footprint. When you install solar panels on your roof, you are a step closer to taking your electricity production and consumption into your own hands. One of the biggest decisions solar shoppers must make is whether to install a standard grid-tied solar energy system, a hybrid system, or an off-grid system. Here's everything that you should keep in mind when you're comparing hybrid solar systems to standard grid connected or off-grid options.
What is hybrid PV solar system?
A hybrid solar panel system is a combination of a grid-connected with energy storage and equipment that provides consistent energy supply during day or night or when the utility grid goes down. A hybrid grid tied with battery storage system stores energy for later use in one or multiple solar batteries but then can also pull from the grid in high energy use periods like hot summer months. A solar system, that is not meant to be entirely off-grid would be a hybrid system.
Why many homeowners choose a grid-tied solar system
Off-grid solar technology is becoming more advanced every year, and a growing number of companies are manufacturing solar batteries for home. If you install battery storage along with your PV system, you can store excess solar electricity when it's produced and then use it when needed day or night. Theoretically, this means that you could completely sever your connection with your electricity utility. In practice, it often makes more sense to stay grid-connected particularly if you live in a utility territory that allows net metering (the ability to sell excess power production to the grid). In addition, most of the solar batteries for home use available today, like LG, Sonnen, PIKA and Tesla Powerwall are designed to store solar energy produced during the day for your home to use in the event the utility grid goes down. These systems often make sense if you live in a utility area where losing power is common place or in the event of a hurricane or storm knocking out power for days.
Can you go off-grid with your solar panels?
Grid-tie solar is the best option for many homeowners, but there are plenty of situations where taking your home off the grid with a solar battery backup makes sense. In some situations, the cost of bringing in utility power can run upwards into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Off grid homes must have a very low electricity demand to avoid unintended battery depletion. If you construct a zero-energy home or conduct major home energy efficiency retrofits on your existing home, powering your property with off-grid solar-plus-storage can be a feasible option. You also need to have the financial capacity to invest in a solar battery backup system, which will add thousands of dollars to your solar installation. Even if you don't take your home off-grid with a solar battery backup, there are still opportunities for you to use solar-plus-storage technology.
Hybrid solar panels: Using battery backup with your grid-tied solar system
For the average solar homeowner in Florida, it definitely makes sense to maintain a connection to your utility company. If you can also install battery backup with your grid tied PV system, thus turning your system into a hybrid solar energy system.
Solar systems that include a battery are particularly beneficial if your utility doesn't have a good policy for compensating homeowners who generate excess solar electricity like Peace River utility cooperative and JEA (Jacksonville Energy Authority). Some utilities don't have retail rate net metering for solar, which means you won't receive a full dollar for dollar credit for solar electricity that you produce and send back to the grid as in Peace River Electric Cooperative and in some areas like JEA, where no net metering exists means energy produced cannot be sold back to the utility.
However, in the case where you do not have access to full retail rate utility net metering, installing a hybrid PV solar system can make a lot of sense in an effort to maximize solar production and storage during off-peak use hours. Thus, when your solar panels are overproducing in peak hours during the day, you can store the excess power in your storage batteries. Then you pull from the battery storage when price per kwh is in high (demand peak hours). For example, during the day when panel production is high, you can opt to store all excess panel production in your batteries in an effort to be less grid-reliant in high peak evening hours when price per kilo watt hour is higher than normal.
Battery back up storage: When, Why and planning ahead
In addition to making it easier for you to manage your solar electricity generation and use at home, solar batteries can provide backup power in the event of a power outage. If you're already installing a solar PV system, including a battery can be more cost-effective in the long term than a diesel or propane powered backup generator.
While most homeowners can't go completely off the grid with a solar battery backup, solar panels are still a strong investment, and storage technologies are becoming cheaper every year. Even if you don't invest in energy storage now, you can ask your solar installer to make your system "storage ready" so that, a few years down the line, you can easily install a solar battery backup.