Solar4Scholars: Grid Independent Solar Energy
What is a grid independent solar energy system?
These are also called off-grid solar energy systems. These are used for remote cabins and farms that are far away from utility wires. In such areas, it is much cheaper for people to use solar energy than to pay the utility company to connect them to the energy grid. For many years, independent solar energy systems were far more popular than systems tied to the grid (this is no longer true). Off-grid systems are often built by amateur electricians.
Some people create hybrid systems that also use wind energy from a wind turbine. There are people who are able to live completely independent of the energy grid. In some cases, these people do without modern conveniences but there are some who have very modern homes completely powered by renewable energies. These systems are very empowering to the people who have made them, as they do not pay utility bills or suffer power-outs.
Independent solar energy systems have many of the same parts (components) as a grid-tied solar electricity system but there are a few important differences.
Components that are part of grid-tied solar electric systems:
- Solar panels that collect energy from sunlight and convert it into electricity.
- An inverter to change direct current (DC) energy into more usable alternating current (AC) energy.
- Wiring to the house's electricity (called the "load")
- The AC breaker panel is the same as you would find in any household.
Components unique to grid-independent solar electric systems:
- A system meter that measures how full the battery is, how much electricity is being produced and how much electricity is being used.
- Batteries that store energy for later use, when there is no sunlight available.
- A rectifier that does the opposite job of an inverter, changing AC to DC. If the solar panels are receiving lots of sunlight, part of this is used to charge the battery.
- A main DC Disconnect shuts off the power so that the battery may be serviced.
- A charge Controller protects the battery (battery bank) from being overcharged.
- A Backup generator is required for emergencies and to cover your energy when you get days (or weeks) without sunshine.
Solar energy is also independently used in small portable systems for RVs, mobile camps and boats. You can read more about this in The Solar Guide's pages on portable solar.
You can also:
Do a solar energy project:
Go back to solar electricity.
Learn about grid tied solar energy systems.