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How does the solar panel system work?

  1. Rooftop solar panels soak up the sun.

    • Those shiny solar panels you see everywhere… this is their chance to shine. But how do solar panels work? When the sunlight hits the solar cells on a rooftop solar panel, it converts particles of sunlight (photons) into electrons of direct current (DC) electricity.

  2. The electricity gets a makeover.

    • A solar inverter – a box usually installed on the outside side of your house – changes the electricity from DC to AC (alternating current). Why the change? Well, the U.S. grid is set up for AC electricity. This means TVs, computers, appliances… pretty much everything runs off of AC electricity.

  3. Your solar meter goes to work.

    • When solar panels are installed, a solar meter is also installed. Sunrun’s meter, for example, allows us to monitor your system’s solar power production, catch any potential problems, and repair them—usually before you even notice there’s an issue.

  4. Let it flow, let it flow, let it flow.

    • Solar electricity from the inverter flows through a service panel to your home or the grid.

  5. A net meter reports to the utility company.

    • Just because you have solar panels, doesn’t mean your old utility company is completely out of the picture. You’ll still be using some power from them. Our solar panels still collect daylight during rainy or cloudy days, but it may not generate as much power. Nighttime is another example of when your home may need to draw power from a utility company. That’s where the net meter comes in. Your utility uses it to read the amount of electricity you use from the grid during times when your solar system is not as active. But it also keeps track of electricity that flows into the grid from your solar system when it’s pumping out clean, natural energy in droves. So, if your solar system creates more energy than you’ve used, you get a credit on your bill. If you have enough extra credit built up, you can carry your bill credit forward for up to a year.

What is a microgrid?

A microgrid is a local energy grid with control capability, which means it can disconnect from the traditional grid and operate autonomously.

How does a microgrid work?

To understand how a microgrid works, you first have to understand how the grid works.

The grid connects homes, businesses and other buildings to central power sources, which allow us to use appliances, heating/cooling systems and electronics. But this interconnectedness means that when part of the grid needs to be repaired, everyone is affected.

This is where a microgrid can help. A microgrid generally operates while connected to the grid, but importantly, it can break off and operate on its own using local energy generation in times of crisis like storms or power outages, or for other reasons.

A microgrid can be powered by distributed generators, batteries, and/or renewable resources like solar panels. Depending on how it’s fueled and how its requirements are managed, a microgrid might run indefinitely.

How does a microgrid connect to the grid?

A microgrid connects to the grid at a point of common coupling that maintains voltage at the same level as the main grid unless there is some sort of problem on the grid or other reason to disconnect. A switch can separate the microgrid from the main grid automatically or manually, and it then functions as an island.

Why would a community choose to connect to microgrids?

A microgrid not only provides backup for the grid in case of emergencies, but can also be used to cut costs, or connect to a local resource that is too small or unreliable for traditional grid use. A microgrid allows communities to be more energy independent and, in some cases, more environmentally friendly.

Solar Information

General information for the state of Washington

Net Metering

NRECA or WRECA  -  what is  this organization

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