Grid Connect vs. Stand Alone Solar Power System
What is the difference between a grid connect solar power system and a stand alone solar power system?
A grid connect system is one that works in with the local utility grid so that when your solar panels produce more solar electricity than your house is using the surplus power is fed into the grid. With a grid connect solar power system when your house requires more power than what your solar panels are producing then the balance of your electricity is supplied by the utility grid. So for example if your electrical loads in your house were consuming 20 amps of power and your solar power was only generating 12 amps then you would be drawing 8 amps from the grid. Obviously at night all of your electrical needs are supplied by the grid because with a grid connect system you do not store the power you generate during the day.
With a stand alone solar system the solar panels are not connected to a grid but instead are used to charge a bank of batteries. These batteries store the power produced by the solar panels and then your electrical loads draw their electricity from these batteries. Stand alone solar power systems have been used for a long time in areas where no public grid is available. However, the real growth in solar power systems in the last 5 years has been in grid connect systems. Why is this? Because most people live in areas that are connected to a public grid and stand-alone systems are much, much more expensive than grid connect systems because batteries are very expensive. It is my hope that in the future we will see a fall in battery prices and that stand alone systems will be used more. However, batteries will need to become a lot cheaper for this to happen.