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Off Grid Solar Power Systems - Energy Independence
Most utility companies charge thousands of dollars to extend an electrical
connection to cottages and homes in remote regions. As an alternative,
consider an off grid solar power
system to create an energy independent home. These systems
require very little maintenance and provide years worth of reliable
electricity. Instead of paying the utility company for the privilege
of using their electricity, consider generating your own power.
An off grid system consists of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, a charge
controller, batteries and inverter. The solar panels convert solar energy
to direct current (DC); a charge controller with a Maximum Power Point
Tracking (MPPT) circuit optimizes the current and voltage of the panels
to produce the most amount of power; deep-cycle batteries are needed
to store the power for use when the sun isnít shining and an inverter
converts the DC electricity to alternating current (AC) for household use.
The number of solar panels and size of the battery bank depending on
your energy needs. Both affect the final cost of the installation. The
more power you require, the more energy youíll need to generate and store.
If youíre considering going off grid, consider these points:
- Youíll be energy independent. You wonít have to pay for the
installation of electrical lines for which future neighbors may
be able to tap into at minimal cost.
- These systems require very little maintenance. The panels
need to be clear of dust and debris. The battery fluid needs to
be checked and topped up occasionally.
- Solar energy is pollution and CO2-emission free.
- Your household may become more energy conscience and may
use electricity more sparingly.
- These systems are only feasible for sunny locations.
- Since this will be the primary power source, the system will
have to be built larger than a comparable backup system to provide
adequate amount of reliable electricity.
- If you donít want to install the system yourself, it will be
more challenging and expensive to find an experienced installer
in remote locations.
Steps to Becoming Energy Independent
- Determine your energy needs. Is there a way to reduce your
energy consumption? Energy conservation is an easy way to lower your
utility bills and reduce the setup cost of a solar power system. You
can reduce energy usage by changing your lifestyle (i.e. turning off
unused lights) but also by increasing insulation in your home, plugging
air leaks, lowering hot water temperature and using passive solar
heating. [See: How Does
Solar Heating Work?] Compact florescent bulbs use 80% less electricity.
- Size your system for your needs. The number of solar panels
in the system will be determined by your energy requirement and by the
minimum number of hours of sunshine your location receives per day.
For instance, in winter, when the sun is low on the horizon and the
days are short, youíll need more solar panels to generate your electricity
needs but with fewer hours in the day.
- Solar power is the most expensive way
to generate electricity on a cost per Watt measurement. Consider a solar
wind hybrid system which will transfer some of the solar generation to
lower cost wind generation. [See: Solar
- Just in case there are days of overcast skies, a gas-powered generator
should be used as a backup power source for critical electrical needs (i.e.
- To help reduce energy loss in the system, keep wires as short as
- DC appliances are more expensive than AC ones, but are more energy
efficient. Consider the costs of wiring a separate DC system for energy-hungry
items to help reduce your electrical requirements.
Solar energy is clean and non-polluting. With your own off grid solar power
system, youíll become energy self-sufficient while not generating any air