Solar Options

Summer is here and solar production is a its highest. When we meet with clients we  answer a lot of questions about a system’s options and these are the most common questions:

• What’s the most efficient system with the best payback?

• What about battery backup for power when the grid goes down?

• What about off-grid vs. net zero systems?

Straight Grid-tied Solar Electric Systems

Most of our clients have a straight grid-tied solar electric system. This means that that the system provides your solar electricity when the sun is shining and a credit with the utility if you’re producing more than you consume. These systems are the most efficient and cost effective solar electric systems.

Grid-tied Battery Backup

Less than 1% of our clients choose a battery back option. These systems do provide power when the grid goes down, but it has limitations and a lot of additional costs and some system inefficiencies. They are much like the straight grid-tied systems in that you get a credit with the utility when you over produce but they provide power when the grid goes down. We can backup some critical loads like refrigeration and lights with these systems but not things like resistive heating, cooking, and electric hot water. Addition costs for these systems usually make this decision cost-prohibitive.

Off-grid Systems Vs. Net Zero

If you live a ¼ mile or more away from the utility grid and you need power to your home or business an off-grid option might be the best bang for your buck. If the utility quotes you $60K to run power to your site, for example, our systems with a generator backup are going to be your best option.

If you’re connected to the grid and want to offset all of your electricity the straight grid-tied net zero system is the most efficient and cost effective model. A net zero system over produces electricity in the spring, summer, and fall and “banks” a credit with the utility to draw off of in the late fall and winter. In the end you’ll end up paying nothing for electricity. Not only do these system provide all of your electricity but they are part of the solution towards energy independence for our Valley.

Thanks for reading this column. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to call me direct at 541-841-0020 or email at

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