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What are Net Metering and Interconnection?

Getting your solar system connected to the grid is usually pretty easy, and almost always a good idea. Do you live on the side of a mountain, with no running water, electric wires, or people for miles around? Off-grid solar might be right for you. If not, you should almost certainly get hooked up to the grid. Connecting your system involves two concepts: net metering and interconnection.

Net metering means what the name implies: the utility keeps track of your usage of their power, your production from solar power, and reduces the amount of energy they bill you for by the amount of your usage. There are times when a customer’s solar array or other renewable energy system produces more electricity than is needed on-site. That valuable power is put onto the grid for use nearby where it is needed. Net metering also ensures that a surplus in one month is carried over to the next.

Shame on you, South Dakota, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Interconnection is the physical and bureaucratic process of hooking your system up to the utility company’s wires. It’s not as simple as your current one-way connection, because the electricity from your panels needs to be converted and transmitted based on how much you generate at any given time. The process is governed by rules called “standards” or “requirements,” which determine the responsibilities of utility companies and homeowners in the interconnection process.

Like many aspects of going solar, connecting to the grid is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. But that’s not because each individual might have different desires or needs. Instead, it’s because the federal government and energy regulators have been largely silent on nationwide laws for small energy producers.

That means the states are left to devise their own rules, and, as you can imagine if you’ve read about RPS laws, some of the state laws make connecting a solar power system far more difficult and expensive than it needs to be. This is yet another area where your installer can provide you with the best, most accurate guidance, but you can find out more about your state’s net metering and interconnection standards by selecting your state from the map on our home page.

Last modified: December 22, 2014

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