Off-grid solar means meeting all of your solar energy needs without the help of the grid. To do this, you need to install a solar power system paired with an energy storage system (such as solar batteries) at the site of power consumption (your home).
Installing an off-grid solar system used to be a fringe concept because it required a huge amount of space and was costly. However advances in solar technology over the past decade have made solar installations more efficient and cheaper, helping to push them into the mainstream. Now, it's a fairly common sight to see RVs and rustic cabins powered entirely by off-grid solar systems.
An off-grid solar system uses solar panels, battery storage, and associated equipment to power a grid-independent location. It has many uses; it can power campgrounds, RVs, boats, remote cabins and even family homes.
Before purchasing a solar off grid system, you need to determine what size system you want. You can do this in one of two ways: based on your current electricity usage or a thorough load assessment.
An off-grid solar kit that can run a home costs between $12,000 and $50,000; this does not include installation, permits, and fees.
Pros of off-grid solar: freedom from utilities, positive environmental impact, a more energy-conscious lifestyle, and the ability to generate electricity almost anywhere in the world.
Cons: It's illegal in some jurisdictions, very high upfront costs, time-consuming to install and monitor, doesn't qualify for California's SGIP rebates, and requires significant lifestyle sacrifices.
If you are looking for a more affordable way to go solar, consider a grid-tied solar system.
While many people only think of solar panels when they hear "off-grid solar", the reality is that there are many other components that you need to add in order to have a functioning off-grid photovoltaic system.
A complete off-grid solar system has all the necessary equipment to generate, store and supply solar energy on-site. Because off-grid solar systems do not need to be connected to any external power source in order to operate, they are also known as "stand-alone solar power systems".
Unlike other types of solar installations, such as the more common grid-connected solar systems, off-grid solar systems rely on batteries to provide power when the sun is not available.
However, batteries are expensive - much more expensive than the solar panels they are paired with. The need for adequate battery storage in off-grid solar systems makes them much more expensive than grid-tied solar systems.
What are the different uses of off-grid solar?
One of the biggest advantages of solar power as an energy source is its scalability and modularity, which is the degree to which system components can be separated and recombined for flexibility and versatility of use.
It is applicable at all levels, from small devices like solar cell phone chargers, all the way up to systems that can power factories.
Here are some of the most common applications for off-grid solar:
Charging portable cell phone or tablet chargers
Powering equipment in RVs
Generating power for small passenger cabins
Powering small, energy-efficient homes
It's worth noting where off-grid solar systems don't make sense: where it's easy to get utility power. This includes situations where people want to power their homes in cities, suburbs, or towns.
If that's the case, you can save even more by choosing a grid-tied or hybrid solar panel system (or even just sticking to grid power), depending on the economics of solar in your area.