Meter in Reverse: The Benefits of Net Metering for Solar Power Users

net metering solar energyIf you’ve ever wanted to be your own power company, now is your chance. How? Install solar panels. OK, so “power company” might be a bit of an exaggeration, but generating your own energy is really cool. You’ll reduce your dependence on your current energy company and you could even make money through net metering.

What Is Net Metering?

When you draw electricity from the power grid, your electric meter starts spinning. This is how the electric company knows what to charge you each month. The more electricity you use, the more the meter spins. Most approaches to saving energy involve reducing the amount consumed. This makes the meter spin more slowly, but it does nothing to actually make you less dependent on the energy company.

Net metering is when you’re able to put electricity back into the energy grid – the meter actually spins backwards and credits you with money that can be used to purchase energy from the electric company or reduce or eliminate your power bill.

Before net metering, you would have needed a backup batter and generator, just in case you couldn’t generate enough energy to last through extended periods of cloudy weather or weather not conducive to generating solar energy. With net metering, this is a non-issue. No batter. No backup generator. Your system ties right into the energy grid.

You Gain Control Over Your Electricity Bills

You might be asking,”how much do solar panels cost?” Well, that depends. While it can still cost many thousands of dollars to install a small panel, the upshot is that you are gaining control over your electricity bills. Most solar customers generate more energy than they consume during the day. That’s because you’re away at work and aren’t using much energy. This energy, which is fed into the power grid, offsets energy you use at night.

If you’re careful with energy consumption, you’ll end up with a net zero bill at the end of the month.

Stabilize The Grid

With the world using more energy, one of the benefits of net metering is that you might be able to help stabilize the grid in areas where brownouts frequently occur or where energy demand is extremely high. Some utilities encourage consumers to use electricity during off-peak times. That’s because businesses in the area consume a lot of electricity, creating slight instability in the grid. In other areas, demand has simply outstripped a power company’s ability to supply.

In either case, solar panels can help put power back into the power grid, making it more stable for everyone.

No Battery Storage Needed

Older systems used a battery as the primary method of storage. The problem with this is that batteries don’t last long. The constant power cycling eventually kills them. This is why older solar panel systems were so expensive. They had parts, like battery banks, that needed to be replaced frequently, driving up the cost of solar power. With net metering, the energy company provides the “bank.”

About the Author

Ryan McNeill studies renewable energy. He enjoys writing about practical applications and common questions.