While it is possible to go entirely off-grid with solar panels, most people considering residential solar want grid-tied solar power systems.
Summarized briefly, net metering benefits both the property owner and the utility company. If you have solar panels installed and generate more electricity than you require, the excess is fed back into the grid for use by other consumers. The utility will give you a credit against any power you need to draw from the grid at other times, at a specific, agreed rate per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Some people even get a refund if they end up producing more power with their solar panels than they use any given month.
Net metering for grid-tied solar power systems also benefits the power company because they are provided with additional electricity that they can sell, often at peak demand periods. Perhaps not surprisingly, a net metering arrangement usually involves the utility paying you slightly less for the power than the rate at which they will charge other consumers.
Net metering is regulated on a state-by-state and/or local basis – there are not any national standards yet.
Its easy to use net metering with home solar power systems, but be sure to check with your utility provider regarding rates and details of the arrangement. All you need is a net metering monitor to be installed with a grid-tied solar power system. The device will track your use of grid-tied power, which is compared to the amount of energy produced by your residential solar array. You can also review data regarding the dates and times of peak or low power usage.
The US Energy Policy Act of 2006 requires utilities to provide each residential and commercial energy user with net metering. With a solar power system, you can save substantial amounts of money by generating power during the day (peak demand times) and only drawing on the grid overnight when energy demands are lower. Overall, you can end up with inexpensive, affordable power with tiny, if not nonexistent, electricity bills!