How would I get electricity when the sun isn’t shining?

If you have solar panels on your home or business, you can still get as much additional electricity as you need from your local distribution grid. Utilities are required by law to meet customer energy demands at any time.

Virtually every residential or commercial solar installation today is connected to the grid through "net metering." Meaning, the solar system owner can sell electricity back to the grid if their system is producing more than they need, or they can buy supplemental electricity from the grid if their solar system isn’t supplying enough electricity to meet their needs. For example, at night and when it’s cloudy or raining, solar system owners can still power their homes through the grid if their system isn’t producing enough. Click here for more background on net metering.  

Electric utilities do require your solar system to be properly connected to the grid to ensure the solar system works and is synchronized with the grid, but they can't stop you from doing so in the 40 states with net-metering laws.   

Some solar system owners are able to generate enough electricity to be able to leave the electric grid entirely. They do this by storing excess energy generated during light hours for later use or by adding backup electricity generators that could be powered by various fossil fuels. Although an increasingly affordable option, it still costs considerably more to invest in additional storage capability like batteries in addition to a solar system. However, for a home located in an area without a regional electricity grid, or if a homeowner would like to be sure they have electricity when the power grid goes out, this is an option to consider.  

Photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL