Solar Energy solar for home Solar power generation

Solar Power Plant: Types, Working, Benefits, Technology & More

33 min read | By Pankaj Mohanpuria

India receives ample sunlight throughout the year. It is time to leverage it by installing a solar power plant and producing your own electricity while taking a step towards a greener future. In addition to government subsidies, there are many advantages of a home solar system that will convince you to switch to a cleaner energy source today. 

If you are looking for complete solar power plant information, here is a good place to start. Follow this blog as we discuss what a solar power plant is, how a solar power plant works, and eventually answer your frequently asked questions.

What Is a Solar Power Plant?

Solar is the most remarkable alternative energy source that is good for the environment. It can be made easily available to individual homeowners by installing a solar power plant for your home. In a solar plant the solar panels have the main function of generating electricity. Modern panels are highly efficient, meaning a few panels can produce considerable electricity to power your home. 

Moreover, the incredible financial benefits of the solar power system give long-term money savings (for over 25 years), especially by reducing monthly electricity bills. Through these advantages, most systems can pay you back on your initial investment within just 6-8 years of use.

Types of Solar Power Plants

Wonder how many types of solar systems are there for your home? The answer is three – on-grid, off-grid, and hybrid solar systems. Learning about each will help you decide which system is right for your home.

More and more homeowners are getting attracted to the potential and benefits of a solar power plant for home. The biggest motivation is solar power’s ability to bring significant long-term savings on monthly electricity bills. However, the process of going solar involves making important decisions, and selecting the right option from different types of solar power plants is one of them.

Each type of solar system is unique, includes certain additional components, and varies in the initial investment required to purchase solar.  

  • On-grid or grid-connected solar system
  • Off-grid or stand-alone solar system
  • Hybrid solar system

Off-Grid Solar Power Plant

This type of solar system is not connected to the grid and relies on solar batteries to ensure power supply.

As the name suggests, you are completely independent of the local grid with an off-grid solar power plant for your home. Going off-grid means that you rely entirely on the power generated from your solar panels and also use battery backup to maintain a power reserve for use when solar energy production falls below the standard capacity.

This stand-alone system is ideal for homes that don’t have access to the local grid and are located in remote areas. An off-grid structure is quite expensive because of the battery pack to store solar power thus generated. 

Working of an Off-Grid Solar Power Plant

A stand-alone system has a higher number of solar panels to produce electricity to meet your home’s daily consumption and maintain an energy reserve in your batteries.

Using an off-grid solar power plant means absolute grid independence for homeowners. In this solar structure, you’ll always have enough power backup in your batteries to meet your home’s electricity demand when solar energy production falls short, especially at night.

There is a higher number of solar panels in an off-grid unit as compared to the on-grid structure. These panels generate a significant amount of electricity to not only meet the home’s electricity needs but also charge the batteries fully. Also, this type of solar system is installed as your home’s main utility system, which increases the installation cost.

Benefits of Off-Grid Solar Plant System

  1. Independence: Absolute grid independence can be a great advantage with an off-grid solar power system. You generate and use your own power and aren’t tied by the terms and conditions of using grid electricity. 
  2. No blackouts: Unexpected and prolonged blackouts will not affect your home when the grid is down. You will always have a predictable power supply when everyone else waits in the dark for the grid to resume supply.
  3. No electricity bills: Since you are not connected to the grid and are entirely using your own solar electricity, you don’t have to deal with the utility company and pay any monthly electricity bills. 

On-Grid Solar Power System

An on-grid solar power system is the one that is tied to the grid and is governed by the provisions of net metering.

A grid-tied or grid-connected system is the most common solar system found in homes, and is highly cost efficient. An on-grid solar plant system is connected to the local power grid so that homeowners can draw electricity from the grid when solar energy generation is low. Whereas, when there is surplus energy production, unused electricity is transferred to the grid and homeowners are issues solar credits which can be redeemed later when the billing cycle gets over.

The key components that an on-grid solar power system contains are solar panels, a solar inverter, and a bi-directional meter to facilitate the net metering. Homeowners don’t have to invest in solar batteries, making on-grid the most cost-effective among all types of solar systems

How an On-Grid Solar Power Plant Works

Net metering is a key component in the working of solar power plants. You enjoy the flexibility of drawing electricity when needed from the grid and also earn solar credits by sending your unused solar energy to the grid.

An on-grid solar plant system generates ample electricity during the day to meet your home’s electricity needs. However, when solar energy falls below the standard generation capacity, you can draw additional electricity units from the local grid via the net metering system. Your home solar system is designed to often generate electricity beyond your daily consumption. The extra electricity that your home doesn’t need is sent to the local grid. Under net metering, the meter measures and bills both the import and export of electricity, which is reflected in your monthly electricity bills.

Benefits of On-Grid Solar Power System

  1. Initial cost: Among the different types of solar power systems, purchasing an on-grid solar plant solar power system is the most cost-effective option. Homeowners need fewer components to set up a grid-tied system.
  2. Low maintenance: Once the system is set up, homeowners don’t have to invest a lot of money or effort in the operation of grid-tied systems. Most installers cover your Solar panels with 25 years of warranty and provide AMC (annual maintenance charges) maintenance packages.
  3. Reliability: Grid-tied systems are easy to install and are more reliable, having minimal downtime (days without electricity).
  4. Flexibility: Modern on-grid designs allow homeowners to start with a basic system and upgrade it by adding more solar panels or batteries, giving you the flexibility to meet future needs.

Hybrid Solar Power System

Hybrid solar power systems become an easy choice for homeowners wanting to do away with power outages as the structure includes the perks of both on-grid and off-grid systems.

A hybrid solar power system has the advantages of both on-grid and off-grid designs. Homeowners enjoy the flexibility of the government grid via the provision of net metering similar to a grid-tied system and also get sufficient battery backup like an off-grid unit.

A professionally designed hybrid solar structure gives you the dual benefits of reduced energy cost and reliable, 24/7 electricity supply across all weather conditions. The key components in a hybrid solar power plant include a PV array, batteries, a solar inverter, a charge controller, and an optional tertiary power source like a power generator.

How a Hybrid Solar Power Plant Works

The sun’s energy absorbed by solar panels generates electricity direct current which then passes through the solar inverter to convert into usable AC. This type of solar power system is designed to generate surplus energy beyond your home’s daily consumption. When solar energy production is at its maximum, the excess units go towards charging solar batteries. When the sunshine is not available for generating power due to the winter season, cloudy days, and also during the night, the energy stored in the batteries is used to compensate for the shortfall in production.

When the batteries are fully charged, the further generated units go to the grid for which you are compensated. If you still have extra energy after meeting the home’s energy demand and the charging batteries, these units are transferred to the grid. You can also import electricity from the grid if you face low solar electricity production and low battery charge.

Benefits of Hybrid Solar Power Plant

  1. Energy storage system: You will not be impacted by power outages as your home solar power system produces electricity beyond your daily energy consumption to maintain energy reserves. During unfavourable weather, when the grid is down and solar energy is reduced, you’ll still have several hours of electricity in your batteries.
  2. Save money in the long run: Adding batteries to your home solar system ensures that you save a lot of money by depending more on your home-generated solar power instead of drawing power from the grid.

Technology Behind Solar Power Plants

Solar or photovoltaic cells, the technology behind solar panels, are remarkable power generators. As light falls on the solar panel cells, they absorb photons and release electrons. These loose electrons are captured to create electric current or electricity. This entire process of electricity generation from light is called the photovoltaic effect. 

Solar cells making up an entire solar panel are manufactured from semiconductor materials, often silicon. This material is responsible for releasing electrons as light hits the surface and then channels these electrons into an electric current.

A typical single-junction PV cell can produce a maximum of 0.5 to 0.6 open-circuit volts. This voltage power amplifies as thousands of solar cells are combined into a solar panel, which are further arranged into large arrays (groups of solar panels). These extensive series of interconnected solar cells across an array can generate renewable energy in significant amounts.

Components of a Solar Power Plant

The composition of a home solar power system is not particularly complex. A standard system is made up of a few basic components. The key components of a solar power plant include:

  • An array of solar PV panels mounted on a racking system
  • Solar inverter
  • Bi-directional meter

Solar panels are the primary component in the working of solar power plants. They collect and convert sunlight into solar electricity. This DC power is fed into the solar inverter and gets converted into AC electricity, ready to power your home appliances and electronics. Various switch boxes are also included in the structure to ensure safety, and the entire solar structure is put together using wires and conduit. A battery pack is included in an off-grid solar plant to ensure a reliable supply of electricity in the home when there is no grid nearby or in case of an outage.

Benefits of Solar Power Plant for Home

  1. Energy savings: The most important advantage of using solar power plant is that you gain a cheaper and more reliable power source than the grid electricity. Solar systems are easier to maintain and saves you money by providing low-cost electricity. You can also earn solar credits received by exporting excess solar power generated back to the grid. 
  2. Adds to your home’s value: A home with its own power bank becomes an attractive purchase for home buyers. As you inform the potential buyers about the cost-savings they will enjoy with a solar-powered home, you will be able to get a better price for your property.
  3. More reliability: Several homeowners complain that their local grid supply is not reliable. Frequent grid failures, especially during inclement weather and unexpected outages lasting several hours, disrupt their routine. With solar power system with a power back up (off-grid solar plant), you have a reliable energy source that helps you keep up with your daily routine without any obstruction from the grid.

How to Choose a Solar Power Plant for Home

If you are ready to generate your own power but confused about picking the right solar setup for your home, the following guide will help you make a decision.

Off-Grid  = Saving + Battery Backup

Off-grid solar power systems are a clear choice for homes that do not have access to the local grid or don’t receive a reliable electricity supply. An off-grid system will enable the homeowner to become grid independent and use batteries to ensure power availability at all times.

On-Grid = Saving + Net Metering advantages

On-grid solar power plants can help you do away with high monthly electricity costs. Moreover, it gives you the flexibility to draw power from and export surplus energy back to the grid.

Hybrid = Saving + Net Metering + Battery Backup

Go for hybrid solar plant systems if you want the benefits of net metering, resolve the problem of high energy costs and outages, and the reliability of a battery backup.

FAQs

How do I find out how much my current electricity bill is?

It’s easier to calculate your monthly and even annual electricity costs from the monthly electricity bills. Whether you want to understand the per-unit cost or how much you pay annually, you can figure it out from the bill you receive from the DISCOm or have your solar power plant installer decode it for you.

What is net metering?

The net metering system regulates the two-way electricity flow between a grid-connected solar plant system and the DISCOM grid. It credits the solar power system owners for exporting solar electricity to the grid and charges for withdrawals from the grid. Both the import and export of electricity are recorded in your monthly bills, and the homeowner apys for the net units or electricity they consume.

Do my solar panels generate electricity when the sun isn’t shining?

Your solar panels require uninterrupted sunshine (and not heat) to generate electricity. The daily power generation of your solar plant system will be affected when the weather is cloudy or at night when sunshine isn’t available. However, the overall financial advantages still make solar a smart investment.

Am I eligible for a subsidy on my home solar power system?

Homeowners are eligible for government-provided solar subsidies on purchasing a grid-connected solar power plant for their homes. A 40% subsidy is available on a rooftop unit of up to 3 KW capacity. Systems with a capacity of over 3 kW and up to 10 KW will be able to apply for a 20% subsidy. You can get your solar system from any vendor of your choice and still benefit from solar subsidies.

Can I go solar if I can’t afford the upfront cost of solar?

If you can afford to pay high electricity bills every month, you can easily afford to switch to solar. Solar financing options such as a solar lease and solar loan can help you easily get a solar power plant. An experienced solar installer can help you compare the cost of home solar systems, provide multiple financing options, and savings throughout the lifespan of your system. 

How do I decide the right size of solar power plant for my home?

Selecting the right size of solar energy system depends on your monthly electricity use and the annual weather conditions. The solar installer will also inspect your roof to assess the amount of sunshine you receive on average. Keep your monthly electricity bills for at least a year handy before scheduling your solar consultation. 

Will I get a warranty on solar components?

All key components in your home solar power system come with manufacturer’s warranty coverage. Your solar panels will have over 25 years of performance warranty, while the other components will have 5-10 years of warranty depending upon the manufacturer. Moreover, your solar company can also provide AMC maintenance packages to help you keep your system at optimum performance levels at all times.

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