Solar PV (photovoltaic) is different than Solar Thermal (ST). While PV is a newer and more advanced technology, installing a PV system is easier and more straightforward. This isn't to say one technology is better than the other. They are just different.
The biggest question I get asked about PV from consumers is whether to use batteries or connect directly to the grid. The only time you want to install a battery system is:
a) you are really rich and want the most advanced system in your neighborhood
b) you just really hate your utility and dont want any part of them (their wires) touching your residence.
c) you live in the boondocks and dont get electric service.
Other than that, you almost always want to connect your PV system to the grid (a.k.a. grid-tied or grid connected). Why?
- You dont need to spend the money on expensive batteries (the grid acts as a battery)
- If you live in a net-metering state, your utility has to pay credit your power bill for the electricity you produce. They may even pay credit you a premium for your solar power.
- Less maintenance is required.
- It's probably safer.
One of the best websites I've found to learn about solar in your state is SolarPowerRocks.com. I wish their message boards for my state were a little more active, but maybe you can help that out.
More to come!