Grid-Tied Solar PV Systems

“What exactly is solar PV” explains that solar PV panels turn light into electricity. “So”, you might say “how does that electricity get from the solar panel to the appliances in my house?” Well, the most common way is with a grid-tied solar PV system, which I will outline here.

First of all, where does the name come from? “Grid” refers to the national electric grid. “Grid-tied” means that the solar system works in partnership with the electrical grid.

How it works

The starting point is the panels. Usually, the panels will go on the roof of your house or garage. Alternatively, the panels can have their own dedicated mounting structure (this is called ground-mounting).

Solar PV panels produce direct current (DC). On the other hand, the appliance in your house needs alternating current (AC). For this reason, an “inverter” is used to turn the DC from the panels into AC that you can use in your house. The inverter will be fitted out of the way, usually in your attic or under your fuse box. Inverters vary in size but most of them would fit in a school bag.

The electricity then flows to all of the appliances in your house, via your fuse box. With a grid-tied system, your electricity supplier will always be there to provide backup power when you need it. On the other hand, when you’re producing more power than you need, the surplus gets exported to the grid. There’s a plan to let Irish people make money by selling surplus power to the grid in the near future.

Instead of exporting your surplus power, you can store it in a battery or use it to make free hot water. Learn about storing solar PV energy here.

Why are grid-tied systems so popular?

Many people like the idea of using solar PV to totally disconnect from the electric grid. It is possible to power your house totally “off-grid”, and if you want to do it for the feeling of independence then by all means go ahead. However, grid-tied systems generally make better financial sense than off-grid systems. This is because a totally off-grid system needs a source of backup power (or else a giant battery) for times of exceptionally bad weather or high demand. It generally works out more cost-effective to stay connected to the grid and use the grid as your backup power source. Overall, grid-tied systems give you the best of both worlds – big savings on your electricity bills but also the reliability and convenience of the electric grid.

Off-grid house in winter
The idea of being totally independent from the electrical grid is appealing. However, it makes more financial sense to stay connected to the grid and use it as “back-up”

Are Solar Panels Worth it in Ireland?

There’s no doubt that solar panels can give you big savings on your electricity bill. But are they worth the up-front cost? Read this article to learn if solar panels are worth it in Ireland. The extra benefits of solar might surprise you.