Solar energy’s next generation

Thanks to the deregulation of electric utilities, which helped open the market for alternative energy sources, more consumers are taking advantage of photovoltaics (panels made of silicon that convert sunlight to electricity) to provide electric to hom...

January 31, 2002

Thanks to the deregulation of electric utilities, which helped open the market for alternative energy sources, more consumers are taking advantage of photovoltaics (panels made of silicon that convert sunlight to electricity) to provide electric to homes or businesses.

Traditional stand-alone photovoltaic (PV) systems require batteries, which store power during the day for use when the sun isn’t shining. But technological ad-vances have made way for the grid-interface or grid-tie PV system. The system uses power from the central utility when needed, but also supplies surplus solar-generated power to the utility. When usage needs are low and supply is high, the electric meter will actually run in reverse, saving the homeowner or business money. Storing power isn’t necessary, so a grid-interface PV system doesn’t need batteries. Some grid systems, however, are available with a battery backup to protect against power outages.

Check with the utility company before installing a grid-interface system because not all companies support this type of service. But more are making the connection every day, thanks in part to state incentives offered for renewable energy sources. For a state-by-state list of incentives, visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy at www.dsireusa.org.

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