Get off the grid! Go Off-grid with Solar
In our ever-connected society, there remains mystique associated with the ability to disconnect and disappear should we desire. It is so common, that our many inquiries mention wanting to “go off-grid.” In renewable energy, this term means you would like to generate all electricity you use at the place you use it. The grid is the alternative.
What is the grid?
The grid is your utility’s networks of power lines reaching from their massive generators all the way to the meter silently counting the energy you buy. To go off-grid means breaking that connection.
Why go off-grid?
You may want self-sufficiency; or be too far to connect; or be tired of utility rates. Still, many associate renewable energy with complete independence, something highly cherished here in the states. I want to show the reality of off-grid life.
What are the options?
There are two: Live off-grid at nature’s mercy or on-grid at the utility’s.
Neither of these options store energy. Not by themselves at least. They give you energy, but cannot store it. Not for emergencies, not otherwise. Off-grid with no sun = no power. On-grid during blackouts = no power too. Even if you have solar panels. The only way to balance and have power: you will need batteries.
This is the key: off-gridders without batteries will blackout at sunset or when the winds stop, just as on-gridders will lose power when the grid goes down (for good reason, this is a safety issue and national electric code).
Batteries can set you free, but the price of independence is high.
Batteries are expensive. Batteries require maintenance. Just as I am not prepared to do my own surgery, most are not prepared to be their own utility. Unfortunately renewable energy installers choose to play that disparity (between expectations and price), offering everything but giving less. Customer’s assume renewable-energy means always-energy, be wary of installers that won’t elaborate.
So what’s the best solution?
Well, it depends. If you’re in the majority, grid-tied systems are the way to go. A pre-requisite to most incentives, grid-tied systems can cost more than half of battery systems. If you have consistent power, you rarely lose energy. Less maintenance and transparent charges are usually worth the small fee. However, if your desire or require autonomy, there is a way. In fact, an entire culture is flourishing that will support you.