Questions About Solar? We’ve Got Answers
Updated: February 18, 2022
We get a lot of questions about solar and how it works. In case you haven’t heard, the solar energy space is HOT — and we’re not just talking about the heat. In 2020, the solar energy sector grew 43%, year over year! Texas is one of the three states with the highest solar adaptation for the second year in a row. Residential installations saw a record-setting increase in the latter half of 2020 and the trend is expected to continue into 2021. In fact, the US solar energy market is expected to quadruple by 2030. Considering all the buzz about solar, let’s dive into how solar works at home, and with Octopus Energy.
Here’s a quick refresher on the actual science (we really love science around here!):
- Sunlight (aka solar radiation) consists of particles called photons, which are small units of energy that radiate from the sun.
- Solar panels convert photons into electrical energy using photovoltaic devices or cells. Made of semiconductor materials, these cells are often less thick than four human hairs (I know, right?!). To protect the cells, they are placed between other protective materials made of either glass, plastic or both. PV cells are then connected together using chains that form larger modules – that’s what is commonly known as a solar panel.
- Much like a battery, panels have positive and negative layers that when combined, create an electric field. The sunlight that comes in activates the electrons within the electric field, which then creates an electric current.
- The electric current is transmitted through wires to an inverter located on a building or house (some inverters are built into the solar panels themselves). To convert the electric current to a form of electricity that is compatible with the house, the inverter converts the solar direct current (DC) power into alternating current (AC) power.
- When a home is outfitted with solar panels, the electricity generated by solar is used by the building first. If there is any excess electricity, it is transmitted to the utility grid to be used by others.
- Each solar panel owner’s utility meter measures how much energy is used by the individual house, and how much excess energy is transmitted to the grid.
Now here’s the best part. At Octopus we credit you back for any excess electricity transmitted to the grid, no matter what plan you’re on. Awesome, right? And, this happens automatically. If you have solar panels, we receive the solar read from the smart meter and automatically start to credit you.
We can imagine you might have a few questions about how our solar buy-back works. Let’s see if we can answer some of these!
How do solar credits work?
Credits are based on the wholesale market rate, measured at 15 minute intervals. Most of our customers use their credits towards their outstanding bill or future energy use, depending on their plan. If you happen to accumulate more credits than you’re using for electricity, we’ll send you a check. Just ask!
Do credits expire?
No your credits never expire. If you switch away, we’ll pay out your credit amount.
How often do I accumulate credits?
You accumulate credits daily, depending on how much excess solar electricity your panels have produced. The Octopus Energy app shows the net difference of excess electricity your panels have generated and how it applies to your bill.
Is the rate I’m buying energy from the grid the same rate as the rate I sell my surplus solar back to the grid?
When you buy energy from the grid, you pay additional fees for transmission, subscription and taxes. When you sell back, you aren’t responsible for those fees. The rate you sell back to the grid is the wholesale market rate, averaged at 15-minute intervals by your smart meter.
I’d like to install solar panels, how do I get started?
We don’t install solar panels, but we do suggest this resource for finding out more about solar panel installation: https://txses.org/are-you-interested-in-installing-solar-panels/
In short, having solar panels on your roof can be a great investment. You can use solar energy to help power your home and sell the excess electricity back to the grid. One of the greatest benefits of having solar panels is not having to buy as much energy from the grid because the panels are generating energy and using it directly to power your home. Please let us know if you have more questions, we’ll continue to update this resource so that you can refer back to it.