Solar PV system types
There are three different types of solar PV electricity systems: grid-connected systems, stand-alone systems and hybrid systems.
Grid-connected solar PV system
A grid-connected, or grid-interactive, system is more often found in the city and suburbs. With such systems, solar panels produce energy that is fed directly into the mains electricity grid via a device called an inverter. The inverter allows electricity from the solar system to be used in the house, with any excess electricity simply flowing out into the mains grid.
Conversely, when the panels aren’t generating enough electricity to power the house, the grid will supply the extra power needed.
This is the simplest type of system and requires little or no maintenance, other than the occasional check to ensure it is still operating and maybe cleaning the solar panels if excessive dirt builds up.
In some states, if you have a grid-connected system you may also be eligible for a feed-in tariff and get paid for the clean, green power you put back into the mains grid. When installing a grid-connected system ask your electricity retailer what feed-in tariff they offer as some are more generous than others.
Stand-alone solar PV systems
Stand-alone systems are not connected to the electricity grid. These are usually found in remote areas where there is no access to the mains electricity grid. For homes without a grid connection, energy storage must be supplied, as it is unrealistic to expect all energy use in the home to coincide with power production from the solar panels. This storage is usually provided by batteries.
Back-up generators usually running on some form of fossil fuel are also often included in stand-alone systems.
Hybrid solar PV systems
The third system is essentially a combination of the other two, where you have a grid-connected system that also has battery storage to allow home owners to utilise more energy from their solar PV system. Some inverters are designed to work with both a battery bank and as grid-connected, giving you the best of both worlds.
A hybrid system is similar in design to a stand-alone system, except for the grid connection. Combination inverters allow for not only a hybrid system, but can also charge the battery bank from grid power during off-peak times – a very handy feature.
- Feature image credit to ©iStock.com/cierra45