Can Solar Panels Power a House?

Posted on: May 20, 2013

 

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We are often asked if solar can actually power a house? We’ll start by saying that this is not necessarily the right question to be asking, but we’ll get to that later. In short, yes, solar panels can power a house. If a system is big enough and you equip it with energy storage capabilities, solar energy can provide 100 percent of your energy needs.

As we mentioned above, this is the wrong question to be asking. Solar is not designed to be a standalone energy source capable of providing 100 percent of our energy needs at all times. It is possible yes, but not cost effective. Solar’s primary value lies in its ability to reduce your energy consumption during peak energy demands—the time when electricity costs are typically the highest. Any power generated by your system powers your home first and any excess is sent back into the grid and credited by your electricity provider.

When the sun is no longer shining, your home simply pulls electricity from the grid. If you generated more energy during the day than your home or business consumed, you are essentially exchanging those credits you sent into the grid at a 1:1 ratio for any power you are using at night—effectively turning the electricity grid into an energy bank. You of course have the option of purchasing a battery back up system to store your excess power, but these significantly increase the cost of solar electricity, meaning your return on investment will be much less than with a simple grid-tied solar energy system.

So If Solar Is Not Going to Power My House All the Time, What Value Does It Have?

Solar’s role in our power grid is most beneficial as a supplemental source of power. Solar’s production curve follows roughly the same path as our energy usage curve, meaning solar is most beneficial during the times we need power the most. This not only helps homes or businesses equipped with solar to reduce the amount of energy they consume when electricity costs the most, but also anyone connected to the grid.

How, you ask?

Simple. When the grid is near maximum generating capacity, seldom used plants known as peaker plants—or peaking power plants—are activated to prevent the grid from crashing. These plants can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and must be staffed at all times, although they are only seldom used. Because the constant cost of staffing, maintenance, and the high initial capital cost are required despite the plants not delivering a constant supply of revenue for energy companies, the power supplied by peaker plants commands a much higher per kilowatt hour cost than traditional base load power.

With enough solar energy saturation, we can reduce peak energy demands—thus reducing the needs for peaking power plants and the increased energy costs associated with them.

solar-panel-system-in-california Want to Learn More About Solar?

If you are considering a solar installation in San Diego, CA or the surrounding area, contact the solar professionals at Action Air, Heating & Solar today. Our solar technicians can discuss the various incentives that are available to you, assess your home’s solar potential, and even provide you with production and return on investment estimates!

Contact us today to get started.