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Solar vs. Utility Power

Does a solar panel system replace an electric utility?

It is possible to replace your electric utility power with solar panels. This depends on your system design and energy needs. Solar panel systems can be designed as either stand-alone systems or grid-connected systems. The role of solar panels in these two types of systems is very different, and the design decisions and performance requirements are very different as well.

Stand-alone solar panel systems generate all of the on-site electricity needs of a home. Therefore, they are not connected to any electric utility. This is most common for remote applications where access to the electric grid is not practical or cost-prohibitive. Stand-alone systems can provide AC or DC electricity. They include batteries to store solar electricity for use when the sun is not shining. Stand-alone systems are often cost-effective when installed in remote areas where access by electric utilities is difficult and expensive.

Grid-connected solar panel systems are more common. They are typically sized to meet 50% to 100% of a home's electrical load. Solar panel systems can be easily integrated with a utility's electrical grid to provide clean, renewable electricity for homeowners, while still ensuring continuous power supply from your regular utility.

The majority of our residential electricity comes from centralized utilities who mine and burn coal. Anyone who thinks this is sustainable should move their residence next to a a coal mine or a coal-fired power plant.

Alternatively, a homeowner can invest in a solar panel power plant on their roof or property to produce most, if not all, of their residential power. You can always start small and add to the system later. But it is good sense to plan ahead so you can meet future electricity needs if you expect a growing family, additions to the house, or to charge your electric car, e.g. tesla, coda, nissan leaf or chevy volt, in the future.

Regardless of whether you choose grid-tie or stand alone solar panels, you'll enjoy a $0 or very low power bill for the 25 or 30 year life of the system. For example, if you spend $200 per month for electricity with a utility, then you will spend $81,979 over 25 years, including a low annual price inflation rate of 2.5%. No matter how you calculate it, you will save money with a $5,000 to $25,000 solar panel system. Forget the confusing and distracting cost per kilo-watt (kW) comparisons. Remember, you can pay the utility for 25 years, with annual price increases, or you can pay a lot less for solar power. You'll also get some great tax credits and cash rebates, and you will increase the value of your home.

Solar... it's the cleaner, cheaper and "Real American" alternative to big, dirty, expensive and unsightly coal.

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