With the advent of tiny homes and portable solar arrays, more people are opting to go “off-grid.” In many cases, these people have no ties to the grid. The entire energy source for their home is the solar array mounted on the roof. For some people, an off the grid system meets a personal desire to be renewable. However, in practicality, going entirely off grid can be frustrating, limiting and not as environmentally friendly as imagined. Homeowners and businesses with solar power that maintain a tie-in to the grid have three benefits that off-grid people do not:
They can sell energy back to the grid
During the summer, solar cells provide more energy. Many solar systems are designed for an average day, so that they will supply energy for much of the year. However, hot clear summer days often create more power than the average day. Homeowners and businesses will have extra energy. Rather than storing it, these tied-in locations can sell energy back to the grid for a profit. Selling energy back to the grid can be environmentally friendly as well. If everyone was supplying the grid with solar energy, we’d all have renewable energy. Selling energy back makes renewable power available to others.
They limit their use of batteries
Off-grid locations need batteries to store excess power during sunny days. Unfortunately, there are losses associated with storing energy. It’s not as efficient as selling the power back to the grid. Homeowners and business that keep tie-ins with the grid might not even have to have batteries. Excess power is simply sold to the grid. Avoiding the use of batteries is also environmentally friendly in its own way. Producing batteries is an energy intensive process and they are difficult to recycle and re-use.
They have options during low power times
Homeowners and business owners that remain tied in to the grid can purchase power when they need it. Although solar systems can be designed to provide constant power, unexpected weather and efficiency trade-offs can lead to days where even the best off-grid system needs more power. Charging batteries is one way for off-grid homeowners to purchase more power. However, it’s not as efficient as simply pulling energy from the grid, like tied-in homeowners and businesses can easily do.
People have many reasons to go off-grid, but there are practical reasons to remain tied-in. From an environmental aspect, it may even be more “green” to stay tied-in, sharing excess renewable power with others. It’s also easier to balance power use and avoid using batteries when homeowners stay tied in.