How Does Solar Work in the Pacific Northwest?

man standing on top of roof solar panels

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How Solar Works in the PNW in 4 Steps

Have you ever wondered how does solar works? It might seem counterintuitive that solar energy production can work well in the notoriously rainy Pacific Northwest, but it’s true.

In order to explain why this is, it’s important to understand how solar panels actually work. How exactly does the sun produce electricity that can power your lights, appliances, and television? Let’s dive in.

Step 1: Convert Sunlight into Electricity

Solar panels work by first layering tiny pieces of positively charged boron which is embedded within thin layers of conductive silicon, shaped into photovoltaic (PV) solar cells which are amassed into variously sized panels, and entcased in a metal frame and a glass front face. Multiple panels are strung together into a “solar array” to capture more renewable energy.

When photons from the sun’s rays hit the photovoltaic cells, the extra electrons in the boron are knocked free, creating an electrical charge. This charge is conducted through the silicon and into wires that carry the direct current (DC) power from the panel and into your solar inverter.

solar panels with a sun reflection

Step 2: Solar Inverters Convert Power to Usable Electricity

Nearly all home appliances and devices use alternating current (AC) power rather than the DC power that is produced by solar panels. So, to convert the electricity from DC to AC, an inverter must be installed as part of your solar system.

There are several different types of inverters, including string inverters, power optimizers, and microinverters. 

Each of these types of inverters has its own pros and cons that make them well-suited to certain types of solar energy systems. Our experts at Precision Solar can help you decide what type of inverter is best for your particular solar energy system.

FAQ: What is a solar inverter? A solar inverter is simply a regular energy converter that converts DC to AC energy but used for electricity generation.

a man inspecting how does solar works

Step 3: Appliances and Devices in Your Home Use The Electricity

Once the power has flowed from the panels through the inverter that converts it to AC, it can now be sent through your home’s breaker box to power your lights, devices, and appliances. By the time the solar power reaches your home’s outlets, it is no different than the power that you receive from your utility company through the electrical grid.

The power can be used to run everything in your home that depends on electricity – your dishwasher, microwave, television, lights, water heater, refrigerator, electric vehicle charging station, and anything else that you might plug in or charge.

Keep in mind that when you install a solar energy system at your home, you aren’t committing to 100% solar energy dependence. Unless you live in a very remote off-the-grid location, you will still be interconnected to the local utility power grid, which means that your solar energy system doesn’t have to produce all of your electricity all the time. Instead, you can take advantage of net metering.

electrical appliances plugged into the wall

Step 4: Track Energy Usage and Production With Net Metering

With grid interconnection, you will still be able to access and use grid electricity when your solar panels are producing less energy than you are consuming or when they aren’t producing at all. Net metering is one of the other Oregon solar incentive programs that allow you to essentially sell any excess energy that your solar panels produce to your utility company.

A net meter measures the flow of energy in both directions – from the grid into your home and from your home solar panels into the grid. Then at the end of the month, you will only be charged for the difference or, if your panels produced more energy than you used for the month, you will be credited for the difference.

In this way, residents of the PNW can bank credit on their accounts during our long, sunny summer days when solar energy production is high and energy consumption is low, and then apply these credits against their utility bills in winter months when solar production is low and energy consumption rates are higher. 

This makes solar energy worth it year-round since the cumulative effect of free solar energy in the summer and credits in the winter can drastically reduce or even essentially eliminate your energy bills throughout the year.

Utility companies, offer credits at varying rates, but some offer 1:1 credits, which means that for every kW of solar energy that you push into the grid, you will be credited for one kW of grid energy that you can use later.


  1. Oregon Solar Incentives
  2. Washington Solar State Solar Incentives
solar smart meter on a home

Are You Ready To Go Solar?

Adding solar energy to your home can save you thousands of dollars on energy costs, reduce your carbon footprint significantly, and even increase your home value. 

Contact our team of experts at Precision Solar today for a free consultation and solar project quote.

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