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Solar Basics

How Solar Works

There are two major forms of solar energy: photovoltaic (PV) systems and solar thermal systems. PV cells convert sunlight into electricity, powering everything from lamps to electronic devices and even electric cars. They work any time the sun is shining, and even on cloudy and rainy days. Solar thermal systems use the sun’s heat to make electricity or are used in water heating applications to displace gas use. Solar thermal can also be used in large-scale electric generation. In PV systems, a flow of direct current (DC) electricity is produced when sunlight strikes an array of solar panels. Appliances and machinery, however, operate on alternating current (AC), as supplied by your utility. The DC energy produced by the panels is fed into an inverter that converts the DC power into AC power, which then feeds into the main electrical panel that powers your home or business.

  1. Individual photovoltaic (PV) cells are connected to panels. Solar panels convert sunlight into direct current (dc) electricity.
  2. Inverter converts direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC) for electricity in the home.
  3. The utility meter records the net amount of energy generated through the PV system. When you’re creating more electricity than you’re using, your meter will spin backgward and the excess electricity is sent to the electric grid. This helps to offset the cost of your electricity usage at night or on cloudy days when your system is not producing electricity.

How Net Energy Metering Works

At any time of the day, your solar energy system will produce more or less electricity than your home or business needs. To allow for Net Energy Metering, a bi-directional meter measures the electricity flowing into and out of your home or business. For example, when your solar generating system produces more electricity than your home or business uses, the “excess” electricity automatically passes through the meter and onto the utility grid. When this occurs, the meter runs backward and Net Energy Metering generates a bill credit for the full retail value of the electricity your system is producing at that time. At times when your electricity demand is higher than your solar system produces, your home or business uses electricity supplied by your utility. Over a 12-month period, customers on Net Energy Metering will pay for the net amount of electricity used from their utility over and above the amount of electricity their solar system generates (in addition to monthly non-generation charges incurred).