There is a high volume of energy being supplied to the grid in Southern California on a daily basis from residential solar systems. Many residents were upset by the utility companies receiving free power from the homeowners’ solar energy systems, so the utility companies introduced “net metering” to offset costs and give value to people with solar systems who couldn’t afford the added expense of a battery system. During months when a system is generating more power than you is being used, the homeowner is credited for the extra power.
Typically, most solar systems generate an excess of power during the spring months when sunlight is maximized and temperatures are still cool. The credits that accumulate are usually then evened out in the summer and winter to keep your home cool or warm. With a high quality system designed for efficiency, you should be able to keep you energy costs low throughout the year.
Will I receive a monthly check due to net metering?
You will not receive a monthly check for net metering. At the end of your first year of owning solar—and annually thereafter—you will receive a ‘“true-up” bill which indicates your energy balance. You may owe, or you may have credits. If you have credits, the smart thing to do is roll them into the next year because the utility companies buy the power back for significantly less than they sell it for. Your best bet is to use the energy later at its full value.
What about going off-grid?
If you are looking to have an off-grid system that can generate a net surplus of energy, the only real option would be to purchase enough batteries to supply the amount backup power you want, and to manage your energy usage well enough so that you can actually fill the backups. However, the well-known batteries used in today’s solar energy systems—Enphase, Tesla’s Power Wall, LG—can only account for short time intervals and are designed to optimize energy utility billing by storing power during the “cheap” hours and dispensing it during higher-cost hours. They do not store ensure energy stretched over months and shouldn’t be considered out-of-the-box solutions for when the grid goes down. It would take significant additional infrastructure to compensate for being disconnected from the grid.
Saving with net metering
Because of net metering, you are credited at the same rate you would pay to the utility company for the extra energy that your solar panels generate. This ensures that you can save a lot of money on electricity costs over the lifetime of your solar system. Calculate your savings here to get an idea of just how much you can save by switching to solar.