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Hybrid solar systems: which pairing of on and off-grid is right for you?

Solar offers more than just an opportunity to reduce your carbon footprint. When you install solar panels on your roof, you are a step closer to taking your electricity production and consumption into your own hands. One of the biggest decisions solar shoppers have to make is whether to install a standard grid-tied solar energy system, a solar battery backup, or a hybrid solar system. Here’s everything that you should keep in mind when you’re comparing hybrid solar panels to typical grid-connection or off-grid options Find out what solar + storage costs in your area in 2023

Key takeaways

  1. Hybrid solar systems are both grid-tied and storage-ready.

  2. Most solar system owners should choose a grid-tied solar system because it’s typically most cost-effective.

  3. You may choose to go off grid if you live in a remote area, don’t consume much electricity and/or have the capital to invest in a full home storage back-up system.

  4. Hybrid solar systems make sense if you’re not eligible for net metering, have peak electricity rates, and/or want protection from power outages.

  5. Check out the EnergySage Marketplace to compare quotes for hybrid solar systems.

What’s in this article?

What are hybrid solar panels?

A hybrid solar panel system is a combination of a grid-connected and storage-ready apparatus that provides consistent energy supply during day and night. The hybrid system stores energy for later use in one or multiple solar batteries but then can also pull from the grid in high energy use periods like hot summer months. Any solar-plus-storage system that is not meant to be entirely off-grid will be a hybrid system.

Why would you choose a grid-tied solar system?

Off-grid solar technology is becoming more advanced every year, and a growing number of companies are manufacturing solar batteries for home. If you install battery storage along with your PV system, you can store excess solar electricity when it’s produced and then use it as needed later. Theoretically, this means that you can completely sever your connection with your electricity utility. In practice, it often makes more sense to stay grid-tied, particularly if you live in an area with significant climate variation.

Most of the solar batteries for home use available today, like the Tesla Powerwall, are designed to store solar energy generated during the day for your home to use at night. This can help you reduce your reliance on utility electricity by storing your excess solar power at home instead of feeding it back into the grid.

The trickier proposition is generating and storing enough extra solar electricity in the summer when solar power generation is highest to cover your future needs in the winter, when solar potential is at its lowest. According to 2021 EnergySage Marketplace data, the average solar shopper offsets approximately 97 percent of their annual electricity use with solar – a significant amount, but not enough to go truly “off the grid.”

Preventing total power loss in the event of a winter snowstorm or an extended period of overcast days would require a lot of storage capacity, a very large solar panel system, and a significant financial investment to install. While it is technically feasible to go off the grid with solar batteries, it’s rarely cost-effective when compared to the benefits of staying grid-tied.

Can you go off-grid with your solar panels?

Grid-tied solar is the best option for many homeowners, but there are plenty of situations where taking your home off the grid with a solar battery backup makes sense. In some places, particularly in remote areas, off-grid solar battery systems are the best (or even the only) option.

There are a few criteria your property should meet to be a good fit for off-grid solar: first and foremost, you need to have very low electricity demand. If you construct a net zero energy home or conduct major home energy efficiency retrofits on your existing home, powering your property with off-grid solar-plus-storage can be a feasible option. You also need to have the financial capacity to invest in a solar battery backup, which will add thousands of dollars to your solar installation.

Opportunities for solar-plus-storage

Even if you don’t take your home fully off-grid with a solar battery backup, there are still opportunities for you to use solar-plus-storage technology. Many do it yourself solar options with batteries are available if you want to install solar-powered lighting or electrify outlying buildings on your property, like barns and tool sheds. Tiny houses, boats, and RVs are also great candidates for solar-plus-storage – they have comparatively small electricity needs and are already designed for “off grid” use.

When do hybrid solar systems make sense?

For the average solar homeowner in the United States, it usually makes sense to maintain a connection to the utility company. However, even if you don’t choose to go fully off-grid, you can still install a solar battery backup with your PV system and use a hybrid solar system. We’ll explain some of the situations in which hybrid solar systems make the most sense:

You’re not eligible for net metering

Solar-plus-storage systems that include a battery are particularly beneficial if your utility doesn’t have a good policy for compensating homeowners who generate excess solar electricity. For example, some utilities don’t have retail rate net metering for solar, which means you won’t receive a full bill credit for solar electricity that you send back to the grid. If you live in California, net metering 2.0 means that new solar homeowners will be enrolled in time-of-use rates with their utility. As a result, the credit you receive for your solar electricity will vary depending on the time of day – electricity sent back to the grid during peak hours generally results in higher value credits. In both of these cases, you can benefit from storing your excess solar energy at home even though you’re still connected to the grid.

You have peak electricity rates

In the case when you do have access to utility net metering, installing a hybrid solar system can still make a lot of sense in an effort to maximize off-peak electricity prices. Thus, when your solar panels are overproducing, you can store it in your storage array or in the grid depending on the context of peak pricing. Then you can pull from the grid only when prices are below market average at off-peak times. For example, during warm summer months when panel production is high but so is household energy use, you can opt to store all extra panel production in your batteries in an effort to be less grid-reliant in a time when energy prices are surging.

You want protection from power outages

In addition to making it easier for you to manage your solar electricity generation and use at home, solar batteries can provide a few hours of backup power in the event of a power outage. If you’re already installing a solar PV system, including a battery can be more cost-effective in the long term than a diesel-powered backup generator.

Investing in a solar-plus-storage system

While most homeowners can’t go completely off the grid with a solar battery backup, solar panels are still a strong investment, and storage technologies are becoming cheaper every year. Even if you don’t invest in energy storage now, you can ask your solar installer to make your system “storage ready” so that, a few years down the line, you can easily install a solar battery backup. Want to start comparing quotes for solar or solar-plus-storage systems? Visit the EnergySage Marketplace to receive customs quotes from our network of pre-vetted installers.

This post originally appeared on Mother Earth News.


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