What is a grid-interactive photovoltaic system?

A grid-interactive photovoltaic (PV) system uses solar energy to generate renewable power that charges batteries for use during power failures and feeds power into the electricity grid.

How it works

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A grid-interactive solar system generates clean power from the unlimited energy of sunlight. Grid-interactive inverters can also use other renewable sources such as wind or hydro power.  When the sun shines, the PV system charges its deep cycle solar batteries and feeds all excess clean power into the electricity grid via the inverter.

When there is no solar power because it’s night, the system can draw power from the electricity grid. When there is a power failure, the inverter draws clean power from the solar panels and batteries to meet the electricity needs of your home or business. Then it is a stand-alone system.

How grid-interactive differs from grid-tied

Grid-tied systems feed green energy into the electricity grid but must disconnect if the grid goes down. Tied systems receive credits and incentives for feeding green power into the grid but they can’t generate energy for their own use when grid electricity is unavailable.

Grid-interactive systems also feed power into the grid but they can keep generating green energy from their PV modules and battery backup systems and use this electricity to meet their own needs.

Benefits

A grid-interactive PV system offers many benefits:

  • Feeding green energy into the grid when it benefits you and disengaging when it does not
  • Independence to use your own clean solar and battery power in your home or business during a grid power failure
  • Accessing any credits and benefits that are available for tying to the grid
  • Ensuring fuller use of the clean PV power you produce, whereas in off-grid systems much of the clean energy goes to waste
  • Two equally available sources of power
  • A more reliable power supply and lower costs
  • Contributing to a more sustainable energy future

One slight disadvantage is that the design and installation of grid-interactive systems are more complex.

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Every 24 hours, enough sunlight touches the Earth to provide the energy for the entire planet for 24 years.

Martha Maeda

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