On-grid or grid-tie solar systems are by far the most common and widely used by homes and businesses. These systems are connected to the public electricity grid and do not require battery storage. Any solar power that you generate from an on-grid system (which is not used directly in your home) is exported onto the electricity grid and you usually get paid a feed-in-tariff (FiT) for the energy that you export.
Unlike hybrid systems, grid-tie solar systems are not able to function or generate electricity during a blackout or power outage due to safety reasons; since blackouts usually occur when the electricity grid is damaged. If the solar inverter was still feeding electricity into a damaged grid it would risk the safety of the people repairing the fault/s in the network. However most hybrid solar systems with battery storage are able to automatically isolate from the grid (known as islanding) and continue to operate during a blackout.
Batteries are able to be added to an on-grid solar system at a later stage if required.
In an on-grid system, this is what happens after electricity reaches the switchboard:
- The meter. Excess solar energy runs through the meter, which calculates how much power you are either exporting or importing (purchasing).
- Metering systems work differently in many states and countries around the world. In this description I am assuming that the meter is only measuring the electricity being exported to the grid, as is the case in most of Australia. In some states, meters measure all solar electricity produced by your system, and therefore your electricity will run through your meter beforereaching the switchboard and not after it. In some areas (currently in California), the meter measures both production and export, and the consumer is charged (or credited) for net electricity used over a month or year period. I will explain more about metering in a later blog.
- The electricity grid. Electricity that is sent to the grid from your solar system can then be used by other consumers on the grid (your neighbours). When your solar system is not operating, or you are using more electricity than your system is producing, you will start importing or consuming electricity from the grid.