Using Renewable Energy Off-Grid
For many people around the globe, a stable connection to a National Power Grid may be hard to come by and very expensive. The question is, can renewable power offer the answer, can it replace the need for many homes and businesses around the world to connect to the grid at all?
Many remote locations around the world are a long way from the nearest Power Station or grid connection, even in Britain, there are locations that are estimated to incur costs up to £60,000 to get connected, simply to be able to pay even more for the electricity! This begs the question as to what the solution may be.
One answer is renewables and with growing support for the micro generation market, this is becoming more and more of a possibility. A combined Wind and Solar system, placed in the right location, could easily supply most remote homes with all the power they need.It might even provide enough surplus so that, if a grid connection is eventually made, power could be sold though feed-in tariffs.
The somewhat lucky thing here is that most remote locations that lack grid connections are sparsely populated and developed for good reason, extreme conditions. Whether these conditions involve intense heat and sunlight of strong winds and inclement weather, this will usually mean that renewable energy is abundant. However, to avoid embarking on an expensive and futile endeavour, it would always be worth getting a proper site analysis done, to ensure a guaranteed return of investment. One way to do this effectively would be with Power Predictor, from Better Generation. This unit can be fined in the location which is being considered for renewables development and will monitor conditions. A survey will take around 3 months minimum but will create a report capable of catagorically confirming if renewables would be able to sustain the property or business in question.
After this, it is down to personal choice and the conditions available as to the installation undertaken. There are however some important concerns:
First, batteries. Batteries will be an important part of the system if the property of business is off grid as this will ensure an uninterrupted power supply should conditions be such that continuous power production is impossible. These are fairly expensive and take a large amount of space, they also need maintained and checked weekly.
Secondly, redundancy. Living off grid means that there is no power on-tap to be able to back up the renewables if it is needed. Using different types of renewable power is important, if it is feasible, such as a joint Solar and Wind array. Also, having some form of generator such as a diesel back-up is a good idea.
Thirdly, Control systems are important and have to be done right. The system needs to be independent and should run without too much intervention. It should be able to switch between Solar, Wind and Back-Up production if needs be, in order to generate a constant power output.
So, in short, the answer is yes, it is possible to live off-grid fairly easily but it has to be done carefully. Full site surveys are important, and the monitoring of the property beforehand to confirm the correct generation capacity is essential. As for economic feasibility, it depends on the distance of the property or business from a viable grid connection. If they are fairly far away, and connection would cost £50,000 upwards, then renewables are a viable alternative. However, at the moment, a fully integrated, independant system for an average sized private property or business for much less is probably unlikely.