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A grid-tied solar power system is designed to connect with your utility grid to achieve an economic return on investment by offsetting some or all of your electrical usage, and with some utilities by providing income through a Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) incentive program. These systems employ an array of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels to convert energy from the sun to DC electricity, and an inverter to then provide regular AC power to your electrical panel.

When a solar power system is making electricity, it slows your billing meter or spins it backwards, leaving only usage not met by solar as the net amount billed by the utility. This is called “net metering.” Some utilities (such as PGrid-Tied Solar Power for Your Business or Institution 2NM, El Paso Electric and Xcel Energy) also track the total solar-produced kWh (kilowatt hours) via a REC meter, and pay the owner a fixed rate per kWh over a multi-year contract.

Sizing a grid-tied solar power system is usually based on your building’s kWh usage over the course of a year; the specific usage profile for each month; your budget; and space available for mounting the solar array. Systems are typically sized to offset most, but not all, of the annual electrical usage. The goal is to find an economic “sweet spot” where the solar fraction (how much of your usage is provided by solar), utility rate structure, and utility and tax incentives, all come together for a maximum ROI. One can also incorporate solar panels into shade structures, such as solar awnings and carports, for added benefit

Speaking of ROI, for businesses there is a 30% federal tax credit plus accelerated depreciation. All systems are exempt from gross receipts tax as well. Paybacks are typically from 4 to 8 years when advantage is taken of all the incentives. The customer can obtain their own conventional financing, or the project can be funded through a PPA (Power Purchasing Agreement) or an equipment leasing company. Energy Concepts already has relationships with PPAs and lenders and can help facilitate your investment in solar power.