Many people find the idea of stepping off the grid to attain energy independence enticing. Who among us does not wish to show their independence from their utility? Before deciding whether energy self-sufficiency is best for you, it’s important to understand the trade-offs between entirely off-grid solar power and grid-connected solar power (with or without battery backup).
Considerations For Off-grid Solar Power
Off-grid solar energy systems need you to take complete ownership of your electricity generation. This often entails acquiring a larger system than you would for a grid-connected system, as you must plan for peak electricity consumption rather than average electricity consumption. Additionally, it may require more storage than is realistic, given the high cost of solar battery backup technology.
If you want to power your entire home completely off the grid, you’ll probably want to make energy efficiency improvements first to lower your consumption before building your off-grid solar power system. Improved insulation, weather stripping around doors and windows, programmable thermostats, Energy Star appliances, double-paned windows, and CFL or LED lighting are all examples of these enhancements. Energy conservation can help you offset some of the additional costs associated with renewable energy and battery storage systems.
Off-grid solar is a viable option for auxiliary constructions with a limited power load, particularly if trenching to the source of electric demand is undesirable or impossible. This could include boat slips, barns located on isolated or rugged land, tiny residences, or mobile homes that are not grid-connected.
Many customers considering an off-grid solar system, on the other hand, may choose backup power from a battery attached to their solar array (although a generator could be more an even more cost effective solution to keep power during an emergency).
Samples Of Case Studies
Remote Coastal Home
On Matagorda Island, off the coast of Texas, a homeowner constructed 2.88kW of off-grid solar on a property with no road access. Eight SunPower X-Series solar panels, a SolarEdge inverter, a Tesla Powerwall, an auto transformer, a PV-DC disconnect switch, a backup loads panel, and an interlock kit were included in the system. The system cost about twice as much per watt as the solar array alone, plus a substantial installation surcharge to carry components and equipment to the location via boat from the mainland.
A lakeside homeowner in Austin sought an off-grid solar solution to power a lift on the boat dock, which is located down a steep hill from the house. The 1.28kW system included four SunPower E-Series solar panels, a Schneider Electric Conext inverter with a DC breaker, a Fullriver battery, and a MidNite Solar combiner box, as well as mounting equipment, conduit, and wiring. The system cost nearly three times what the solar array alone would have cost per watt.
Is Off-grid Solar Energy An Option For You?
REASONS TO SELECT OFF-GRID SOLAR ENERGY:
- Gaining control of your energy consumption
- Greening our energy usage by reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and increasing our use of pollution-free renewable energy
- Declaring self-sufficiency from your utilities
- Maintaining power amid utility blackouts and crises such as hurricanes or thunderstorms
- By living in a rural place with limited access to the electric grid, you can embrace your pioneer spirit.
REASONS FOR CONTINUED USE OF THE GRID:
- By terminating your utility agreement, you will be ineligible for any utility subsidies, which normally help make solar panels more cheap.
- Most utilities provide reasonable electricity rates and net metering schemes that compensate you for your production, which can reduce your overall cost of electricity below the cost of a sufficiently large solar and battery system to cover your peak demand usage.
- Solar that is grid-connected maximizes the efficiency of the overall system and community resources.
- Solar Grounds that are not connected to the grid
Alternatives To Off-grid Solar Power
While off-grid solar may not be feasible or economically viable for everyone, solar-plus-storage systems are becoming more prevalent as the cost of batteries continues to decline, in part due to their eligibility for the federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC).
By combining solar with batteries, you can ensure some backup power while utilizing the grid as a supplemental battery. This decreases the load on – and thus the expense of – the storage capacity required to meet all of your electricity needs during peak periods and when the sun is not shining.