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Different Configurations & Types of Solar Systems

This is due in part to government grants that are being made available to reduce installation costs. Its popularity is also driven by the incentive to earn some money through a sell-back option to the grid.

Author: Peter Clarck
Date: Apr 1, 2013 - 7:39:13 AM

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The stand-alone or off-grid system

This is the most popular solar installation throughout most of the world. It is commonly used for many of our daily applications, such as powering a home, shed, or even a pocket calculator. The basis of a stand-alone solar system is that its power is generated solely by solar power, which it stores in a battery to be used when required.

Anybody can gain from this simple type of solar system, even for the most mundane task, such as lighting a room.

Grid tie

The grid tie solar system is becoming increasingly popular, not only in Europe, but also in the United States. This is due in part to government grants that are being made available to reduce installation costs. Its popularity is also driven by the incentive to earn some money through a sell-back option to the grid.

The grid tie system harnesses the sunís rays to generate power for your home. Any extra electricity is bought by the utility companies. If you need electricity when the sun is not available or strong enough, such as what occurs during seasonal change or inclement weather, you can buy power from the grid.

However, a disadvantage with this type of solar system is that when a power failure occurs, there is no power generated from the solar panels of your home system.

The grid tie systemís main advantage is a lower dependence on the power grid, while participating in an environmentally efficient production of electricity. This system works excellently when the sunís availability is strong, and especially when there is a heavier electrical demand; during the summer months, for example, when there is an increased demand for air conditioning.

Grid tie with power backup

The grid tie solar system with a power backup is a combination of the grid tie system and a battery pack.

Similar to the grid tie system, the grid tie power backup system uses the sun to generate power through the solar array, but it has a battery pack that stores the excess power generated to allow continuous supply during power cuts and decreased sun availability.

Grid fallback

The least well-known solar system is the grid fallback system, which is best for smaller homes. It is operationally cost-effective, as well as being environmentally efficient.

The grid fallback solar system works much like the grid tie power backup system, with an inverter that can power more than one circuit structured into the distribution panel.

There is an automatic switch-over between the batteries and the grid. This is a simpler and lower-cost solar system than the grid tie solar system. Besides the grid tie power backup solar system benefits, the grid fallback solar system allows you to use the generated power any time you need to, not only when the sun is out. Therefore, your dependence on the grid is lowered during peak periods.

A major benefit of this system is its low cost to power one circuit, or many circuits, expanding when and you need to, according to your budget. It usually costs a couple of hundred dollars for a simple circuit installation, compared to the thousands laid out for a basic grid tie solar system.

However, a grid tie solar system is preferred when generating over one kWh of electricity. Anything less would favor the grid fallback solar system. If you are not going for a heavy investment on a huge grid tie system, then a grid fallback system is the more feasible option when a lower amount of hourly power is required.

Grid failover

The grid fallback system is also useful in that it can be configured as a grid failover system, which kicks in during a power cut. This allows contingency power, but the solar power provided is wasted if it is not used on a daily basis.

Check if you like to know more about solar energy or solar photovoltaic systems.

View all articles by Peter Clarck

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