5 Steps To Understand Solar Simply

solarroofsunSolar is converted to electricity fairly straight forward. It actually isn’t that complicated.

Consider that the Earth receives more energy from the Sun than total world energy consumption for a year. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could harness that more efficiently for the cost of producing a solar panel?

Right now panels are expensive and you have to have a lot of them to catch that energy from the sun.

Consider that the Texas electricity grid is a totally on demand grid system where all electricity is generated in real time as needed. When you create excess solar energy you need to send it back on the grid and have a partner lined up to buy that energy from you.

With solar if you are going to store the energy it has to be transferred to a very expensive set of deep cycle batteries. Because solar energy storage is costly it makes a ton more sense to sell excess energy back on the grid for a credit and at night just use cheap retail electric grid power. If you want t be totally off the grid then when it is night time this solar energy can be used from your deep cycle battery storage system to run your home at night when the sun is not out. The batteries offer a 24 hour around the clock totally off-grid system but that storage is expensive and in my opinion just not worth it.

Getting to the Basics of Solar: We all know that the sun shines down on the panel and some how the panel absorbs this energy and converts it to electricity. We show you a clear explanation of the 5 step process of solar electricity generation below.

Here is the 5 steps to how solar can be your energy off-grid superhero:

1) Solar panels as of now are created using expensive silicon based cells that are small individual models that are connected to together. These cells are called photovoltaics or PV’s. These clusters of solar cells do the job of converting sun energy to electricity but the cost is higher than I would like for the efficiency current PV solar cell systems offer for the price you pay. These PV cell clusters perform the task of converting incoming sun rays straight into electricity.

2) The converted energy goes through a set of wires to an inverter. The inverter makes the electricity created change from Direct Current (DC) to Alternating Current (AC) which is what U.S. homes use.

3) Once the inverter has done it’s job the electricity goes into the breaker box via a wire and is available to meet your houses energy demands as needed.

4) When more power is generated than needed the electricity created is “net metered” which simply means you get to have your electric meter roll your kilowatt hour usage back. During the night and in low light during rain storms and such you will continue to get electricity service from your retail electric provider if you are still hooked into the Texas electric grid.

5) To get the ability to have the “net metered” effect you have to contact your electric utility which could be Oncor, Centerpoint, AEP, or perhaps someone else. These utilities have net metered agreements for you to fill out. These agreements are used to begin the process of changing out your old electric meter for a new net-meter which has the ability to out-flow and in-flow your electricity. On top of this some retail electric providers like Green Mountain Energy offer a program where they will buy your excess green energy you create for top dollar. You get a credit on your bill but not an actual check but this means you can effectively have a monthly positive balance on your electric bill each month. It is the responsibility of your retail electric provider to buy back your out-flow energy and not Oncor or any other transmission and distribution utility. If you want to see what retail electric providers in Texas offer a “distributed renewable generation out-flow buyback” option you will have to call each one individually and ask as providers are constantly changing their provisions regarding this.

Here are the latest net metering outflow buy back provisions we know of offered by retail electric companies in Texas. Out of 47 Texas retail electric providers only 4 that we know of offer a program to buy back the solar energy you create.

  • Kinetic – Full retail credit for all energy produced but no credit for any energy in excess of the customer’s monthly consumption.
  • Green Mountain Energy – Through the Renewable Rewards® Buy-Back Program, Green Mountain customers who install qualifying renewable energy generation facilities at their homes can receive credit for any excess energy they export to the electricity grid. For the first 500 kWh per month of surplus power, the credit will be the same per kWh rate that Green Mountain charges for the Renewable Rewards® electricity product. For any excess energy beyond 500 kWh per month, the buy-back rate will be reduced by 50 percent. The credit is exclusive of any monthly service charge, TDSP advanced meter surcharge, applicable taxes and fees or other charges. For more information visit Renewable Rewards® Buy-Back program.
  • TXU – The TXU Energy Surplus Power Purchase Agreement is a month-to-month agreement for surplus solar electricity currently paid at $0.075 per kWh and surplus non-solar electricity paid at $0.06 per kWh. Payments are made quarterly with no cap on the amount paid out. This program is limited to systems of 10 kW or less in capacity. Requirements: Must be on a TXU Energy residential or business rate plan of customer’s choice and have an interconnection agreement in place with their TDSP. For more information visit here.
  • Reliant Energy – A flat rate of $.085 per kWh.

Out of 74 Texas municipalities only 5 have net metering buy back programs. Out of 80 Co-ops 24 had net metering policies but the cost to the customer to opt-in made these policies worthless and costly to even take advantage of in most cases.

When comparing other states with net-metering policies Texas seems to fall short. Other states will pay you full retail price for the energy you create. It really makes no sense to have a net-meter that gives your utility free energy that you produce so in Texas be sure you pick one of the 4 retail providers that will pay you back in some way.

If your interested in Texas solar and would like to work with a stand-up guy I recommend Rudy Wright with Wright Way. These guys have been doing solar for quite awhile and are a family owned business since 1982. I recommend calling them and talking through what you want…they might be able to get you setup at the cost and with the right solution your seeking.

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