Solar Electric Systems: Can They Take You Off Grid?

March 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Solar Panels

If you’ve ever fantasized about completely ending your relationship with the electric company and becoming self-contained in terms of energy consumption, your dream has a name. It’s called living “off grid.” There are people living off grid, but usually it’s not by choice. In some remote areas there is no electric service available. However, off-grid living is being sought after more and more as a green lifestyle choice. If energy independence interests you, there are some things you need to consider first.

There are two aspects of energy independent living that you must learn in order to be successful. The first is to become very familiar with how and when you use electricity. Though you don’t have to go without it, off-grid living requires frugality with your electricity use, as there is no room for waste. The second thing you need to know up and down is how your system functions and what it needs for proper maintenance. In fact, you’ll have to be an expert regarding your system to keep it running. Fortunately, there is copious information available on solar energy nowadays, so that anyone can achieve expertise. But it requires genuine commitment and a good deal of time.

The typical self-containing solar energy system comprises nine components:

1) Photovoltaic array/ mounting rack. The photovoltaic array is a collection of many rows of linked and interconnected photovoltaic cells that work together. The mounting rack is used to connect the array to the roof for best exposure to the sun.

2) Array DC disconnect: The photovoltaic array DC disconnect acts as a breaker for shutoff between all other components and the array. It affords you the ability to disconnect the array from the system should any problems arise.

3) Charge controller: The charge controller prevents overcharging of the batteries.

4) Battery bank: The battery bank holds excess electricity. In the event of inclement weather, you need enough battery power in storage to last two to three days.

5) System meter: This is somewhat like a car’s dashboard. It shows the status of all components so that you can monitor your system.

6) Main DC disconnect: The main direct current disconnect is a breaker to disrupt the connection between the stored batteries and inverter.

7) Inverter: The inverter takes the direct current (DC) electricity generated by an array and then stored in batteries and transforms it into alternating current (AC) electricity for use in household appliances.

8) AC breaker panel: The alternating current breaker panel is just like the kind used by the electric company to connect your home’s wiring to the electrical source.

9) Backup generator: The backup generator is necessary in case there is a period of inclement weather and you use up everything stored in your batteries. The generator can be run on gas or diesel, but biodiesel is the best option to stay consistent with a green lifestyle.

Hopefully now that the components are broken down for you, you can see that achieving expertise on your system is an attainable goal. If you’re willing to put the time, effort and commitment into it, a solar electric system can be a viable option for you to achieve energy independence and reap the rewards of going “off grid.”