How to Tie in a Solar Grid

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Use a grid-tie inverter -- also called a "synchronous inverter" -- to connect a home- or small business-based solar energy generation system to the electric utility grid. As with all inverters, direct current (DC) from a solar array is converted to alternating current (AC) used by appliances and lighting systems. A synchronous inverter takes electricity collected by a solar panel array and applies it to a power distribution panel. The electricity may then be used to supply power loads, or sent out to the utility grid. When no solar energy is available, such as on cloudy days or at night, the inverter then allows the utility to supply the power for loads in the home or business.

Things You'll Need

  • Synchronous (grid-tie) inverter
  • Inverter mounting bracket
  • Electrical cable
  • Electrical connectors
  • Check first with the local energy supplier to find out whether a grid-tie configuration -- also called "net-metering" -- is permitted, allowing the homeowner to sell electricity back to the utility.

  • Purchase a grid-tie inverter, also called a synchronous inverter, matched to the solar electric generation system being used. The inverter must be matched to the wattage output of the solar panels. Where a metering system from the utility is already in use, simply tie into that meter. If no meter is in use, the utility company will require a kilowatt hour meter to measure the amount of electricity being sold to the utility.

  • Mount the inverter in the chosen location, preferably close to the electric meter and safe from bad weather. Use a mounting bracket as specified by inverter manufacturer. Attach the mounting bracket using hardware supplied by the manufacturer. Connect as specified to both meter and solar array connections using electrical wiring. If the system uses a battery bank, connect as specified to the battery bank.

Tips & Warnings

  • A national law requires investor-owned utilities to allow net-metering, but rural electric cooperatives are exempt.
  • Grid-tie inverters may be used with or without a battery bank to store solar-generated electricity. Federal and some state guidelines recommend systems with no battery banks.
  • Check with state solar renewable energy programs before installing a net-metering system. New Jersey, for example, has a Solar Renewable Energy Credits program that offers higher value for solar-generated electricity than mere "net-metering."
  • Only a licensed, professional electrician can make connections to the power grid via an electric meter.

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References

  • Photo Credit electric meter image by palms from Fotolia.com
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