Do I Have To Go Off The Grid When I Switch To Solar Energy?
Going Off the Grid with Solar
Make sure to have “balance-of-system” equipment to securely transfer electricity while building an off-grid solar electric system.
We have been showcasing solar energy in the home this month. Most people still don’t know that an integrated solar off-grid system isn’t as hard as it seems. We’re here to tell you how that can be made possible.
Often an off-grid solar system makes sense in rural areas where extending existing power lines to connect to the grid (which can cost between $15,000 and $50,000 per mile) is difficult and expensive, but an off-grid system can make sense elsewhere as well.
The first step towards installing an off-grid solar electric system in your home is to investigate the equipment you’ll need based on what you want the system to do. You will need “balance-of-system” equipment to condition the electricity, as well as transmit and/or store electricity for future use, for all systems to transmit electricity safely. Want to store power for use when your machine isn’t producing? If so, a battery storage system and a charging controller will be required.
Once you’ve decided it makes sense to have an off-grid system, you’ll need to analyze your electricity charge to understand how your energy needs fluctuate daily and annually. Consider energy-efficiency measures that can be implemented before you determine your system capacity. The research stage is the perfect time to have a home energy evaluation carried out by a specialist. (I suggest that you do this irrespective of whether you are considering a renewable energy system.) Getting a more efficient home would minimize your electricity consumption and allow you to buy and build potentially a smaller (less expensive) system. If you are building a new home, work with the builder to incorporate renewable energy into the home’s design.
To determine your total electricity consumption:
- Multiply the wattage of each appliance by the number of hours each day is used (be sure to take into account the seasonal variations). Generally speaking, data regarding power use can be found on a sticker, metal plate, or cord connected to the appliance.
- Record the time(s) of day the load runs.
Every jurisdiction is different and has specific rules, regulations, and building codes governing the type of renewable energy systems that can be installed and who can install them. Be sure and check with your state energy office, local officials, and/or a local renewable energy organization to see what requirements apply to your community.
Advantages of Grid-Tied Systems
- Save more money with net metering
A grid connection would allow you to save more money with solar panels by increasing output levels, net metering, plus lower battery and installation costs:
Batteries and other stand-alone equipment are required for a fully functional off-grid solar system, adding costs and maintenance. Therefore grid-tied solar systems are typically cheaper to install and simpler.
Sometimes, your solar panels produce more energy than what you can consume. Homeowners will transfer this excess electricity onto the power grid with net metering, instead of storing it themselves with batteries.
Net metering (or feed-in tariff systems in some countries) plays a major role in how to incentivize solar power. Without it, residential solar systems from a financial standpoint would be far less feasible.
Many utilities are committed to buying electricity from homeowners at the same rate that they themselves sell it.
- The utility grid is a virtual battery
They have to spend energy in real-time. This can, however, be stored temporarily as other forms of energy (e.g. chemical energy in batteries). Energy storage typically results in substantial losses.
The electric power grid is also a battery in many respects, with no need for repairs or replacements and far higher performance levels. That is to say, with traditional battery systems, more energy (and more money) goes to waste.
Additional benefits of being grid-tied include access to utility grid backup power (in the event that your solar system stops generating electricity for one reason or another). At the same time you are helping to reduce the peak fee of the utility company. As a result, our electrical system as a whole is gaining capacity.
Considering Going Solar? Solar Harmonics is Here to Help
Most of our clients are looking for a company they can trust to help them go solar. Based on our decade in business, online reviews, and Diamond Certification, Solar Harmonics is the best choice to trust to complete your solar project on time, on budget, and with the expected results. It is our mission to design the best value solar panel system that produces reliably over the next 30 – 40 years, and saves the most money for our clients. If the financial goals of our clients intersects with the global and environmental goals of our founder, it is a win for everyone except the utility companies. Contact us today for your free quote!