If you are not using net metering to sell your energy back to the grid, you will need to store your power in a battery, so you can turn the lights on at night. For obvious reasons, this is especially necessary for mobile solar panel installations, such as those on RVs, caravans or marine (boats) applications.
A typical solar installation consists of the following 4 components:
- Solar Panel
- Controller Charger
The energy needs to be stored in deep cycle solar power batteries during the day. The batteries are not cheap, in fact they will probably cost more than the solar panel themselves. If you want to power your entire home on solar power — you may need an array of 20 or more deep cycle batteries, costing several thousand dollars. And whereas solar panels may last for 25 years, the batteries do not, expect them to need replacing every 5 years at least.
All kidding aside with the rock band AC/DC — when you build a solar panel, you have to convert the energy it produces into energy you can use. Solar panels produce “direct current” (DC). Before you can use the power in your home, it must become “alternating current” (AC). A conventional inverter takes the DC input from many sources (lets say — 3 solar panels and 1 wind turbine) and converts it to electricity you can use in your home. A micro inverter will convert the DC to AC right at the solar panel, before it hits the power line attached to your house. Micro inverters have a strong following in the solar panel community. AC power runs through electric cords more efficiently than DC. In fact, many people claim excess power production of as much as 25% by using micro inverters.
The advantage of using solar power batteries is that a battery also needs DC (Direct Current), so that a battery can be charged directly from your solar panel. Some batteries come with a 12V DC output, such as a USB connection, but you will still need an inverter, because most home appliances run on AC current.