Whether you are trying to save money or you are trying to save the environment. Off grid power solutions have you covered. Since there aren’t many common non-grid systems around us, it seems quite challenging to go off-grid. Whether one is better than the other depends on your requirements.
What’s an off-grid solution?
Every country has a grid system. This grid connects residential as well as commercial buildings. Why? It supplies them with basic amenities like electricity, water, fuel. Living off-grid means you are self-sufficient. You do not need the government’s help to fulfill your needs. In short, you will produce your electricity with the resources already available. It will be enough to sustain your household. After all, why buy when you have enough?
You can start by producing power for one electric appliance at your home. Such an off-grid power system is often referred to as the Pico system.
You can power your entire house and that would make it a stand-alone system.
Mini-grid or isolated grid is also a type of off-grid system. A few buildings separate themselves from the national grid and produce their energy. This type of grid is interdependent. We should take into consideration the opinion of each member of the mini-grid before making any change.
Tap The Power of The Sun by Going Solar
Gone is the time when solar power was non-conventional. With advancing technology, the solar plates will become more efficient. Will need less space and give better output. Along with that, the cost of installing decreases as manufacturing gets easier. The average cost of solar panels to power your house is $14,000.
If you live near the poles, solar power is a no. That’s because you will have shorter days for six months. If you live in someplace where you don’t see the sun very often, solar power won’t be of much help to you. You can consider the other options listed below that are also efficient.
You need solar plates, an inverter, and a battery bank for storage. These battery banks for solar energy are expensive. You can opt-out of batteries if you are confident about the number of sunny days you see every year.
If you have access to the sun all year long, then look no further. This is it. But in reality, almost all places on earth have some shady days. And for those days, you are going to need a battery bank for storing the energy. You will also need an inverter to access the solar power at every corner of your house. For utilizing the greatest potential of the solar plates, clean them at least once a month.
It is necessary to know that some solar plates are not waterproof. So, be sure to check before you buy it. If your budget is tight, cover your solar plates during rain to protect them.
Use the Force of Falling Water To Power Your House
Yep, that’s true. Hydro systems have the potential to produce a lot more energy than the others listed in this article. The cost of installing a hydropower system in your home can vary a lot. It depends on the type of materials you use, how long and how many materials you ship, and so on. Still, I will give you an idea. It will cost you around $48,000 approximately.
A battery bank will be useless because the hydro plant keeps producing power, all day and all night. All you will need is a constant power source, which in this case, is a stream of running water. You would also want your turbine to keep moving. Take care of the turbine, clean it if required, because if it stops, you will be without power.
Well, not everyone lives near rivers or waterfalls. So, the use of hydropower remains restricted to a few people.
Setting up a hydropower plant will be very costly. This is because of the underwater constructions. But after they have installed it, a hydropower plant requires very little maintenance.
Don’t Let The Wind Pass Unused
Wind power comes with more conditions. Before you decide to go for wind power, do some research about the average wind velocity at your place. The wind should be a lot stronger than a breeze and consistent. Usually, wind power is ideal for seasides and hills. These places have uninterrupted wind flow.
And if you are at one of those places where there is a smooth flow of wind, then you shouldn’t worry. Wind power installation is expensive. But again, one wind turbine is enough for your entire household. Usually, one wind turbine on average produces 10 kW of energy and costs around $50,000 – $80,000. That’s enough for powering a medium-sized household.
It will need some space to stand too. You better have a lawn. Don’t forget to take permission from the government before you construct anything there.
Wind energy is always a mystery. When you want the heater, the wind might not blow and as a result, you won’t have a lot of electricity to turn on the heater.
Wind turbines also create a lot of noise, and you might take some time to get used to that noise. The turbine needs regular maintenance to keep it working. Maintenance can also appear a bit expensive.
Hybrid Systems Do it Best
All the above off-grid power solutions are for specific areas. Solar power for sunny areas, wind for windy areas. But not places are so idealistic. The best off-grid power solution for most areas would be to have hybrid systems. You can opt for both solar and wind, or hydro and solar, whatever suits you best. In short, a hybrid is a combination of renewable sources of energy.
The basic need of a hybrid energy system is to have a battery bank. so you can store the excess energy and use it in times of crisis.
A hybrid power system is the most practical thing to do. You don’t have to do it all at once, because that would cost a hell of a lot of money. You can install the wind turbine a few years after you shift to solar.
Use A Generator For Off-Grid Living
Well, a generator doesn’t produce clean energy. It runs on diesel or some other fuel. But you still want to consider having one, because nothing is faster than this. Consider having a generator for emergencies. Off-grid fuel generators produce a lot of emissions. That’s because they don’t have a proper system to control and counter the emissions.
If you are concerned about the environment, you don’t have to be guilty. Because you won’t be using generators all the time.
Alcohol fuel is a power source that isn’t much in use, but it is about to be the future of clean energy. You can use it to power your cars, stoves and even run your generator with alcoholic fuel. This way, you won’t be depleting fossil fuels.
Batteries Can Save Your Hide
Batteries don’t produce power, but it solves power shortage. You will need to charge batteries for times when the wind would stop blowing and the sun would stop shining. I mean, what about storing energy during the winter, so you can have your AC running longer in the summers?
Turn Waste Into Fuel
We can use biogas as fuel or even have it converted into electricity. You will need a gas turbine and an inverter. We can produce biogas from food waste at home, so it is super sustainable and clean.
But wait, biogas production can be difficult because it has a lot of steps. You need to decompose your kitchen waste in a way that methanogens (a bacterium) can grow in it. Methanogen will decompose the waste in an anaerobic environment. It will release methane as a by-product of this decomposition. Then you will collect the methane and use it. To produce biogas enough for your household, you will need a lot of waste. Consider collecting wet waste from neighbors once a week.
If you have prior experience at composting or something similar, you can give this a try.
Biogas will be a great option if you plan for a mini-grid with your neighbors. All your wet wastes will be going to one place. You can learn how to produce biogas or hire a professional to look over it. It is going to get easy and fun if you have a group of interested chaps around.
Special Mention to Geothermal Power
Geothermal power is still a non-conventional source of energy. Research says that there is enough energy inside the earth to supply the entire world. At some places though, geothermal energy is available for use, for example in Iceland. Even then setting up a geothermal power plant is expensive.
Unfortunately, technology hasn’t advanced enough, so we can use this energy.
Geothermal energy is a renewable source of energy. Like we cannot over-exploit solar energy, we cannot exploit geothermal energy.
Is it Legal to Produce Off Grid Electricity?
Many people ask me this question. Is it legal to go off-grid? Is it legal to produce your power? The answer to these will be yes and no.
Producing your power is legal. But most countries will not allow you to completely detach from the national grid system.
Most often they will allow you to produce your power, but you will stay connected to the grid. If you do not produce enough electricity, you will still have to pay the electricity bills. It is possible to cut down your electricity usage and save electricity to have it in excess. That’s when you can sell the electricity back to the grid at a wholesale price. Sometimes the amount you raise from selling electricity can cover your electricity bills. Well, that’s usually rare and difficult.
Some countries, like most of the US, have put forward a lot of restrictions on what you can do on your land. This means that you have to take permission from the state before you decide to set up a windmill. And it is more probable that you won’t get permission.
If you don’t live in the city or town near the city, then you will not face so many challenges. In towns away from the cities, the national grid system has not reached yet. Expanding the national grid to such towns is going to cost a lot to the government. That’s where they will allow you to detach from the grid. You can produce your food, electricity, do whatever, and no one’s going to bother
Environmental Effects of Off Grid Electricity
One of the most serious environmental concerns is batteries. They cause mineral resource depletion. I would also remind you that a battery will last for years. And for all those years you won’t be contributing to fossil fuel or mineral resource depletion.
Wind turbines sometimes kill birds and insects. The blades of the turbine rotate very fast. Birds and insects that fly into the blades, get killed. A wind turbine for personal use can hamper the natural habitats of different species. It will even result in an ecological imbalance there.
There’s good and there’s bad, but off-grid power solutions lie somewhere in the middle. Starting might feel very difficult, but there’s no reason why you can’t have your electricity. Off-grid power solutions can seem expensive on the surface. But that’s not true. In the long run, it’s going to be kind to your pocket. A solar cell system can go on for 20 years. Maintaining it doesn’t cost a penny.
Setting up an off-grid power solution in your home can be a challenge because it costs a lot at first. When you are setting up, you might need to leave your house for a day or two. You definitely cannot camp on your lawn because it’s illegal without a proper permit.
For the first few months, you might not see the beneficial effects. You might not see the results you expected. It might also happen that you never get out of this phase if you do not learn how to conserve energy. Soon you will be out of electricity and blame it on the system.
Going off the grid has its benefits too if you learn and adapt to it well. In a few years, you will drop your electricity bills and even earn some cash from selling excess power.
In case of storms and power shortages, you will have your battery bank backing you up.