There are myriad benefits to solar energy. From reducing or eliminating your electric bills to increasing your property value and from creating local jobs to protecting the environment, there are plenty of reasons to go solar. Another, lesser-known benefit of installing panels on your property is that solar helps the entire electrical grid.
When property owners and businesses install solar panels, they help reduce the overall demand for electricity on the system. Whether by self-consuming all of the electricity their solar panels produce or through net metering, solar owners offset their electricity usage with the electricity produced by their solar panels.
What's more, the timing of when solar reduces demand is very important. Many parts of the US are described as "summer-peaking," meaning that the region uses the most electricity during the summer months. On the hottest days of the summer, homes and businesses have to kick their air conditioners into overdrive, while other appliances–like refrigerators and freezers–are also forced to work extra hard to maintain the same baseline level of cooling. As such, the mid-afternoon on the hottest day of the summer will often be the day when a region or state uses the most electricity, which is also when electricity is the most expensive to produce and purchase.
However, mid-day on the hottest day of the summer is also an ideal time for solar panels, which produce near their maximum output under those circumstances. As a result, not only does solar help reduce the overall demand for electricity on the system, but it also helps to reduce electricity use when the grid needs it most, easing the overall stress on the grid and reducing prices for consumers throughout your state or region.
Your electricity bill includes two primary charges: one for procuring the actual electricity that you consume–your supply charge–and one for getting that electricity to your house–the transmission and distribution charge. Installing solar helps reduce the need for producing and procuring electricity, which reduces the amount of electricity that needs to be moved across transmission and distribution lines.
On a large scale, this can have a huge benefit. As more and more people need more and more electricity in a certain area, the transmission and distribution system can become very stressed. The poles and wires of the transmission grid act like pipes–there's only so much electricity you can push through them before they are full. Once those wires reach their maximum capacity, your utility will need to invest heavily to build additional poles and wires to meet the new demand. Installing solar reduces demand, which can reduce or delay the need to build new transmission lines, which can save hundreds of millions of dollars.
These two primary ways that solar helps the grid–offsetting the need for spending on both generation and transmission upgrades–add up to real savings for all consumers on the electricity grid. For instance, a study by Synapse Energy Economics found that distributed solar saved electricity customers in New England $20 million in just one week during the summer of 2018. By reducing the stress on the system, distributed solar reduced the cost of power by nearly 15% when the grid was most stressed.