How Does Solar Power Work: Off-Grid, On-Grid, and Hybrid Systems?
With solar power systems becoming a common sight in most neighborhoods, more and more people are curious about how it all works. How do those panels on your neighbor’s roof provide electricity? What are other types of equipment required to make it work? How do different types of solar power systems differ? Keep reading to get a basic introduction to solar equipment, like the Sol-Ark Hybrid Inverter, and learn to answer all these questions.
The Basic Components of a Solar Power System
First, let’s talk about the equipment needed to turn sunlight into electricity successfully. There are many different components to a solar power system, and these can vary slightly depending on the type of system you have (more on that later). But here are the essential pieces of equipment that you’ll see in your average solar setup:
- Solar panels – These are the most prominent piece of equipment, as they’re out in the open for all to see. Solar panels are made up of silicon-based photovoltaic (PV) cells. When sunlight strikes the PV cells, the atoms inside begin moving at a high rate of speed within their silicon base, generating DC electricity.
- Solar inverters – Every solar power system requires a solar inverter because every home uses AC power. As mentioned above, panels generate DC electricity, so it’s not usable for most things in your home. The solar inverter changes that DC power to AC for your home to use.
- Batteries – These aren’t required for a system to generate power. Instead, they’re used for storing energy to use when there is no sunlight. These are essential for off-grid systems but are also an excellent option for expanding the usability of an on-grid system.
- Distribution Panel – Off-grid systems won’t utilize a conventional grid distribution panel, but grid-tied ones will. The inverter sends electricity to the distribution panel, where it’s drawn into the circuits of your home. If you don’t have batteries, excess power is sent to the grid in a process known as “net metering.”
Different Types of Systems
We’ve mentioned the names of different types of solar systems already, but here’s a breakdown of the three main types:
- On-grid – The most common type of residential system, these solar setups are tied to the city’s power grid. Your inverter uses that grid to regulate power flow and feed excess power to it whenever possible. The grid then supplies power to the home when solar is unavailable.
- Off-grid – These systems are entirely disconnected from the grid and rely on battery storage for power when there is no sunlight.
- Hybrid – These solar systems are tied to a grid and utilize battery storage as a backup source of energy or use stored battery power during peak times. It makes your house less dependent upon the city grid.
Each of these system types has its pros and cons, but ultimately, they provide the homeowner with renewable energy every day.
How It All Works
You’ve probably gotten an idea of how these systems work based on the equipment described above, but here’s a simple breakdown:
- Sunlight activates the PV cells in your solar panels. As the atoms become energized, they zip around and generate DC power, which feeds through the connected cords and down to the inverter.
- The inverter changes DC electricity into AC power that your home can use and sends it to the distribution panel.
- The distribution panel feeds AC power into your circuits or passes it onto the grid for credit.
- If you have batteries, the DC power may be sent straight to the batteries for storage instead of converting it to AC power. It can then draw on that stored power through the inverter, converting it to AC power and sending it to the distribution panel as needed.
- The power in your circuits flows into your appliances and lights, powering your home!
It is just a basic overview of how solar power works. There are many different models of the different equipment, such as the Sol-Ark Hybrid All-in-One Inverter, so contact us to learn more about solar and finding the right equipment for your needs.