Solar panels are often marketed as the ultimate in energy independence. With a large enough installation coupled with onsite battery storage, you can go off the utility grid and reduce your dependence on fossil fuel completely.
That’s the official narrative.
But is it truly possible to unplug from Maryland, DC’s utility network and live a life totally powered by your solar panels?
Yes. It’s possible.
But there are compelling reasons not to unplug completely. Let’s look at the pros and cons of opting out of the utility grid.
Using Solar to Unplug from Maryland, DC’s Utility Network
The most common reason why homeowners and businesses don’t tie their solar installations to the grid is because they physically can’t. Their properties are too remote that the sheer cost of laying transmission lines is prohibitively expensive.
How expensive? Sometimes as much as $180,000 per mile (for rural regions) and $11,000,000 per mile (for urban areas).
Even if you’re only 100 yards away from the closest power lines, grid-tying your solar installation isn’t always practical financially.
Another reason why Maryland, DCers opt out is for the “feel good factor.” You no longer have any direct relationship with the utility company. When the electricity network goes down (as it did during Hurricane Sandy), you can still continue powering your home or business — even if the rest of the neighborhood goes dark.
Now, let’s look at why so many solar customers prefer not to decouple their installations from the utility company.
Why Tying Your Solar Installation to the Grid Makes Sense
The main reason why you’d want to connect your solar panels to the grid is cost.
On-site storage can be expensive, with solar batteries costing anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000. Worse still, they need replacing every 10 years or so.
Contrast this with grid-tied solar installations.
Your panels generate power when the sun is shining, and they feed excess electricity into the utility network – as a credit. When the sun goes down, you simply withdraw the energy you need from the utility grid — as a debit.
In effect, the entire power network is a free, virtual battery that stores electricity whenever you need it. And with net metering, your utility bill reflects the sum total of all credits and debits.
- If you consume more electricity from the grid than your panels feed in, you owe the utility company money
- If you consume less electricity from the grid than you put in, the utility owes you money (or more commonly, it’ll credit your account)
There are 3 additional reasons for tying your panels to the grid.
1. Energy Security
Even the best batteries have limited storage capacities. And on cloudy days, your panels might not generate enough energy to power your electricity needs.
Access to the utility network provides you with added security.
And in those rare instances when the entire grid goes down, you can always fall back on your solar panels provided you have a hybrid solar system that permits this.
2. It Is Sometimes Required
Maryland, DC customers who lease their solar installations are usually required to tie their systems to the utility grid. Unless you own your solar installation, decoupling from the power network may not be an option.
3. Environmental Benefits
When you tie your panels to the grid, you’re helping the utility company reduce its reliance on fossil fuel. Each additional kilowatt of residential or commercial solar capacity means less pollution for your entire community.
So Which Solar Option Is Best for You?
Whether to opt out of the grid or stay connected is a personal choice. But given the differences in cost and energy security, the majority of solar customers choose to keep their systems plugged into the network.
If you have additional questions or want to explore which option is better for your property, contact us today.