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No Utility Incentives? No Problem: How To Get Returns From Your PV System

In some areas, the best incentive for investing in a residential solar power system may come from the local utility. On top of federal tax credits, improved resale value, and various state incentives, some consumers can benefit with additional credit from the local utility when they are able to sell back power they generate with a PV solar energy system. This arrangement not only saves them more money, it also accelerates system payback and return on investment.

But what happens if or when these incentives are limited or even ended? If a consumer has a simple grid-tied system, he doesn’t have many options if the utility won’t take the power back; he has to either use it or lose it. But if a grid-interactive system with energy storage is installed with a smarter inverter/charger at the heart of it, the consumer has a lot more control over his energy destiny with technology that can mitigate or offset the need to purchase utility power. This technology effectively provides the consumer with his own local grid and enables intelligent shifting of sources to get the best return. This type of system may assign top priority to using excess, renewable generated electricity to keeping the batteries comprising the energy storage bank fully charged. After that, if selling back isn’t an option, the system can simply divert more renewable generated electricity to run the home right up to taking it off the grid if circumstances permit. During peak energy times when grid power is most expensive, or during power outages, the system has the additional benefit of using stored renewable generated electricity in place of grid power.

Offset functionality ensures renewable energy systems always deliver reliability and value by balancing available power sources. The economics are favorable when the grid is up as well as when it fails, since the inverter/charger augments grid power while also maintaining backup capacity. For consumers who care equally about keeping their energy footprint small and saving money, the offset function is an intelligent, natural choice.

The smarter inverter/charger supports the principle that solar-generated power is not just about efficiency but also about efficacy and yield. Smart inverters operate efficiently, which is important, but they also operate intelligently. Over time, they improve their annual yield and can generate up to 30 percent more power per year from an identical array connected to a simpler, less intelligent system. The goal is to fully manage and master a variety of energy-production and use scenarios, including options to move from grid-tied to off-grid operations.

Unlike grid-tied systems that can save the owner money during the day but cannot offset utility consumption in the evening or backup power during an emergency or outage, a system built around a grid-interactive inverter/charger and battery bank can do it all: save money when the grid’s up, save everything when it’s down, and manage energy flow in multiple directions to fully master any utility-imposed energy scenario. With grid-interactive inverter technology and battery backup for energy storage, residential solar users get solutions that deliver effective, efficient power, regardless of the sometimes capricious nature of local incentives and policies.

Article by Mark Cerasuolo who manages marketing at OutBack Power, a designer and manufacturer of balance-of-system components for renewable and other energy applications. Previously, he held senior marketing roles at Leviton Manufacturing, Harman International and Bose Corporation, and was active in the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).