Solar in Palo Alto


Solar energy is a clean, renewable resource that can efficiently heat water and provide electric power. The City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU) offers a variety of informative resources to residents and businesses interested in solar energy.

Background and Benefits

About a third of Palo Alto's electricity demand is met by utility-scale solar and 100 percent of Palo Alto's annual electricity demand is met by carbon neutral supply, meaning supply that is sourced from renewable or hydroelectric sources. Residential and commercial customers may still want to consider going solar.  

How a Grid-Tied Rooftop Solar System Works

Electricity generated by rooftop solar powers your home the same way that electricity coming from the grid does.  First, a rooftop solar system converts sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity.  An inverter then converts DC electricity from your solar panels into alternating current (AC) electricity, the type of electricity used by appliances, lights and other devices in your home. Your home's main electric panel connects power supplies — such as rooftop solar and the utility grid — to circuits in your home. Those circuits include outlets that you can plug appliances and devices into, as well as switches that you can use to direct electricity where you need it. Your utility meter measures electricity that flows between your electric panel and the grid. The type of meter you have depends on which Net Energy Metering (NEM) program you are served by. CPAU provides electricity from the grid when your solar panels do not produce enough to meet your needs and compensates you for excess electricity that you export to the grid when your system generates more than you are using.

A standard grid-tied rooftop solar system will not provide electric power to your home in the case of a power outage. All grid-tied solar systems are required to disconnect from the grid during a power outage. This is so the “mini power plant” on your roof doesn't feed electricity back into the grid during an outage, which would endanger utility workers who are repairing the utility wires. To learn more, visit our residential solar page