Solar Knowledge is POWER: Your Solar System and the Utility Grid

Solar panel systems interact with utility grids in various ways. In PNM territory, the majority of Affordable Solar residential customers fall into the utility’s “Small PV” group, meaning the solar array that best fits their needs has 41 solar panels or less. 

After you contract with Affordable Solar for a solar panel system, our solar designer will visit your home for a feasibility assessment. The designer will inspect the condition of your roof looking for obstructions and possible shade. Your electrical box will be checked to make sure we can “interconnect” your solar system to your electrical panel. This is very important because solar energy will be fed into your home and also sent back to the grid. Ensuring power is transferred safely is vital not only to you and your family, but also to your community, to the whole PNM user base, and to us, your solar contractor. 

After your property is assessed for project safety and feasibility, the designer will return to our office on I-25/Montgomery. The data collected at your home will be analyzed using solar design software and an “interconnection application” will be generated. This application will inform PNM about the type and size of solar array to be installed at your property.

If you choose to put 41 or less solar panels on your home (most residential customers select between 20-25 panels), we will submit the “Small PV” interconnection application on your behalf. PNM separates systems that are smaller than ~41 solar panels (10kW AC) from larger systems for the purposes of “net metering”. Net metering is the process through which PNM measures your solar production for a certain time period and credits it against your usage. Throughout a calendar month, PNM tracks the energy your home uses. Once you have solar installed, they will also track the solar energy your home is producing. At the end of the month, the utility will only charge you for the net energy used.

In the “Small PV” category, PNM will let you bank any solar energy you produce in excess of your home’s energy usage so you can use it in future months. In New Mexico, during the months when the most solar energy is produced (Spring and Fall), mild weather often means your home is comfortable without heating or air conditioning. The excess solar energy produced during those months can be used to offset the additional energy consumed via air conditioners or winter lighting in other months. This allows most of our customers to offset 100% of their electricity bill, which is very exciting financially and environmentally!

In the “Large PV” program, PNM allows customers to “bank” excess solar energy for a month. For example, customers who go off to work during the day, while their system is producing solar energy, and then return home in the evening will receive credit for the daytime energy produced. That credit will go towards their evening energy needs. At the end of a calendar month, solar energy produced in excess of the home’s total energy usage is typically discarded. Most of our customers in this program opt to offset 70-80% of their energy usage to avoid buying more solar energy than they will use in a given calendar month.

If you would like more information about this topic or about choosing the right solar panel system for your home, please send us your contact information or call to speak with a solar consultant. 

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