A vast majority of today’s solar installations are known as ‘grid- tie’ systems. Instead of using batteries for storage, grid-tie systems utilize the electric grid like a giant battery to absorb excess solar generation and to supply electricity at night or during times of limited solar generation.
Net metering allows customers with grid-tie systems to get credit on their utility bill for the total energy produced by their solar panels.
When your solar panels are producing more electricity than can be used at your home or business, your electric meter runs backwards giving you a 1 to1 credit for the energy your produce with solar. When you use more electricity than can be provided by your solar panels, your electric meter runs forward. At the end of the billing period, you only pay for the net amount of electricity used. This is your total electric usage minus the electricity that your solar panels produced.
Monthly Electric Bill= [Total amount of electricity used] – [Electricity produced by solar panels]
You can think of net metering like ‘rollover minutes’ for cell phones. Your solar panels may produce more electricity than you can use during some times of the year. With net metering, you get full credit for periods of excess solar production and are only billed for the total electricity you purchase from the utility over the course of the year.
You can view specific information on Virginia’s net metering laws provided by DSIRE.org.