Understanding Off-Grid Solar Power
Perhaps you are like many other Americans who, for whatever reason, want or need to live completely on your own, disconnected from the rest of society as a whole. In other words, “off-the-grid”.
There could be a number of reasons that being off-grid is important. You may have a remote residence, such as a cabin that does not have adequate access to public utilities without extremely high costs.
Perhaps you have past experiences that make you hesitant to “tie-in” to the public utilities and rely on them for power. Or, maybe you have some well-founded questions and fears about the future security of the power grid.
Whatever the case may be, building an off-grid-solar system provides an excellent alternative energy source with complete independence.
We do not currently offer off-grid solar. The goal of this article is to help you understand some of the benefits and drawbacks of off-grid solar. If you decide not go with off-grid, then we share the second best alternative.
In order to be completely self-sustaining, and independent of a utility company, you need utilize a natural and environmentally-friendly source of power such as the sun.
The sun’s power can be collected and used through solar photovoltaic modules, or solar panels, which can be installed as a roof mount, ground mount, or elsewhere.
There are different types of solar panel systems, however, if you want to be completely self-sustaining in terms of power, your best option is to install an off-grid solar power system.
Off-Grid Solar Power Systems
Off-grid solar systems are powered by energy from the sun, which energy is collected through solar panels and is then taken to an inverter, which then transfers the energy into usable energy. The power collected through the solar panels is then stored in batteries, which can then be used to power all your home needs.
The best thing about off-grid solar power systems is that you are able to be completely energy independent from a utility company because you are not at all connected to the grid, and instead use the battery back-up as the primary source for all your power needs.
Totally Independent Power Source System
Most everyone is already connected to the grid and because of that they are completely dependent upon the utility system for power, so in case of an emergency or power outage, they are stuck without power and have to wait for the utility company to fix it before they will have power again.
Even if you have a grid-tie solar system, the use of your energy is still dependent on the utility company being active and running. That is unless you have a solar system with battery backup. You do not have to be stuck without power in such a case.
You can have peace of mind and can have the security of being independent of the utility company if you have an off-grid solar system.
When the utilities left him stranded, a homeowner went off-grid with solar storage
Many homeowners might have given up and bought a different home when faced with the utility hassle that landowner Derrick Zearley experienced. Instead, he looked to solar storage to avoid interconnection altogether.
Derrick Zearley’s family resides in an off-grid home in South Carolina that’s powered by solar with backup battery storage. Firefly Solar
Zearley purchased land located on a boundary of two utility territories in Anderson County, South Carolina — Duke Energy and its energy cooperative Blue Ridge Electric. That led to a back-and-forth between Duke and Blue Ridge to determine whose territory it actually was. When Duke Energy laid claim to the plot, the next step in the process was getting signed petitions from Zearley’s neighbors to give right of way on their properties to run electricity to the site.
But after distributing the petitions, no neighbors signed. With half a year lost to the utilities and unwilling neighbors, Zearley reached out to Palmetto State Solar (now Firefly Solar), an installer based in Greenville, and pitched the idea of an off-grid solar system to be built for, and alongside, a 5,500-sq.-ft building in an unelectrified remote location in South Carolina.
“I’m somewhat of a cowboy, so I was interested in the challenge and kind of being able to give the utilities the middle finger after they gave us the run-around,” Zearley said.
Residing in a remote location like this usually comes with additional energy conservation requirements, such as limiting household electricity usage to when solar panels are receiving the most sunlight. But Zearley didn’t want an off-grid home with energy limitations. He wanted to build a full home with an attached workshop that electrically functioned on his own terms, with power after sunset — not a cabin or a trailer that relied on a few measly kilowatts of solar power.
Raising a solar-powered barn
Firefly Solar didn’t have much experience with off-grid projects prior to this one.
“We get calls from time to time from people who want to go off grid, but for the most part it’s not feasible, primarily from a financial perspective,” said Aaron Davis, owner and president of Firefly Solar. “So, when Derrick called, I went out and visited him and I sort of threw out some rough numbers of what he might expect, and he was willing to get into that, especially because of the difficulties he had with the utility companies.”
Zearley’s home resides on a 27-acre property, with about six acres being open yard. The building he wanted was a pre-engineered steel structure with a single slope roof in a color that takes inspiration from red barns found in farming communities. Zearley likened it to “barndominiums,” which are similarly wrought structures known for ease of construction through prefabrication and energy efficiency.
Firefly was willing to do the project and Zearley was willing to put down the money, and the plan was for solar storage technologies to primarily power the site.
Firefly Solar installed a 19.5-kW solar system atop the home, slightly oversizing it to compensate for the roof angle. Firefly Solar
“I think it piqued my interest once I learned that he thought the technology was available, but no one’s really done it yet in our area, and so there wasn’t anything really to mimic, to design after,” Zearley said. “It was kind of an interesting challenge, I think, for the both of us to figure out how to do this. Then once we started going down this road, I told the energy companies that we didn’t need them anymore.”
To take the site off the grid, Firefly Solar installed a 19.5-kW solar storage system made of 60 Panasonic 325-W modules, 60 Enphase IQ 7X microinverters, IronRidge XR100 racking with S-5! ProteaBracket metal roof attachments and four Tesla Powerwall 2 batteries. And just in case solar doesn’t cover it, a 20-kW Kohler gas-powered backup generator was installed too.
Firefly lucked out, because when Davis reached out to Tesla about the project, the company was just starting an off-grid program. Previously, the warranty language on Tesla storage hardware didn’t cover off-grid applications. Just as the Powerwalls were being installed, Tesla was rewriting operating code to make the hardware work in this application.
“Derrick approached this with kind of a ‘no compromises’ attitude and what he wanted was basically a home that was off-grid but didn’t seem like it was off-grid,” said Ryan Wagler of Firefly Solar, who was the design project manager on this project. “Typically, with off-grid you’re talking about, ‘All right, we need to limit your usage and we need to install LEDs everywhere.’ With this, we really just went for it and we installed the capacity to handle the everyday usage of a home of this size, and that was new for me.”
I have enjoyed reading and trying to self educate myself about how to hook up solar. I’m in a 2000 sq ft home on 9 acres and hand made well. I would like to and am ready to get set up solar. I lived very simply for years 6 miles off grid raising my babies in the mountains living extremely simplified with 2 panels that ran a slow pump to pump water and minimal lights inside the house. I’m not willing to live that substantially at this point but want to be energy independent. In Washington state we are required to pay a basic fee to PUD even if we are generating all of our own energy through solar. I want independence and have done many things on my own as a single parent living in the mountains such as electrical wiring, creating gravity water systems, sheet-rocking, tiling, etc… I think I can save lots of money by doing or hiring a diy person to help me do it myself. I enjoy the challenge and want actually understand the system I have instead of being dependent financially on others to keep it going for me.
Amen to all the folks pointing out the costs involved here. It must be quite nice to be rich and young. This dude’s car costs more than my house! I’m just jealous of course, and sick and tired of all the stereotypical American over-engineering. Who needs a 5500 sq ft house? Why use the most expensive panel on the market? I’m sure he would’ve paid about the same dealing with Electric Companies here. I’m in NC and costs per pole = 12K for new construction. I’m designing and plan on DIY’ing my own much more humble system (9.6KW solar, 30KWH storage, 12KW Sol-Ark inverter), for about a 3rd of what this dude paid. I’ve been saving for years.
Try something like Solarwholesale dot com or bluepacificsolar dot com for DIY kits and BOS components. I like the bluepacificsolar site best, they give a lot of information to consider for on grid, off grid and grid interactive systems.
I envy those who can afford these things. I’d love to go completely off grid, but there’s no way for us “poor” folks to manage that. On top of the cost, our town has very unreasonable restrictions on installing solar panels (because the city owns the power company). Unless you’re pretty well off, you just can’t do this around my area.
We have a self built solar home system also. We have 2kw of qcell panels and 7kwh of Lifepo4 battery storage. Our heat, hot water, clothes dryer, and kitchen range are all natural gas. We have enough battery storage to make it through periods of overcast days. The 2kw of panels is enough to provide for our every day usage and keep the batteries charged on sunny days. We have a 1500watt inverter for our low load needs, and a 3000watt inverter and separate wiring for our larger loads. We also have a Chevy Volt with a 1500watt inverter as a backup should the need arrive. On long stretches of sunny days we can also charge the Volt. It’s just my wife and myself in our mid seventies so we really don’t use an a lot of electricity. So far the system has been meeting our needs, even in the winter. The whole system ran a little over 7500. I built the system mostly from off the shelf components that I found mostly on either EBay or Amazon. I bought wherever I could get the best deal. With our particular circumstances the system works great for us.
Pretty much none of the LiFePO4 batteries are cheap, but there are some companies that will sell you the basic battery pack. Simpliphi has a 3.8kWh pack and can be stacked for more capacity. Humless seems to be selling a 5kWh battery pack, LG Chem has just redesigned their battery pack and they seem to be trying to compete with TESLA in pricing.
This story makes it sound like a complete off the grid home electrical system has never been done before which is utter bullcrap. I’ve got a friend that built his own off the grid system at least 8 years ago. His system consists of solar and wind that powers a battery storage system with back up propane generator. This system runs his large home with all the modern conveniences mostly on the wind and solar and only occasionally needing the generator. While electricity was available to my friend, he want to be self reliant.
Relax Kevin, The wonderful thing is we can all experiment and adapt the different technologies to save money and/or be free from black outs and brown outs. Who went off grid first will not matter in the end. JKF
No, they just said it had not been done in his area, and the contractor hadn’t done it before. Re-read it.
My 500 watt system provides 99% of all my needs. Cost 450,200 including the new 2,200 watt back up generator/ inverter and storage batteries. Rarely use my generator.
That is awesome! Your footprint is small. Wish more people thought like you. I have a 500 watt system with about 275 amp hour batteries back up. I’m still on grid, little at a time and I hope to be off sometime.
Your story and Bob’s story are important teaching experiences to those who balk at solar PV. We are institutionalized into the thought, I have a 200 Amp 240 Volt house panel, that’s roughly (48,000) watts and over 24 hours is 1.152MWh. Not true for most folks, not even close. You’ve proven it. On average in the U.S. the average home uses 1.5 to 2.0kWh as an average house load during the 24 hour period. Does one have current surges on high surge items like well pumps and air conditioning compressors of perhaps up to 100 Amps for milliseconds throughout the day, sure, but for most of the time you could supply the “running” load needs of the home with a 6kWp solar array and a 20kWh battery pack. This article is about an off grid house, but, what if you are tied to the grid and use it for only high surge events and high draw pumps and appliances?
Understanding Off Grid Solar System Working Principle
Integrating solar panels into your home is an excellent method to save money while also lowering your ecological footprint. Today, we’ll look at off grid solar system working in detail and see why they are more effective than variety of other solar panels.
How is Off Grid Solar System Working Different from Other Solar Systems?
Off-grid solar systems are slightly more complicated than normal solar systems, but this complexity allows them to perform much more. Most people who build an off-grid solar system want to use solar to meet all of their energy needs. That implies they’d be completely off the grid. As a result, many of these systems can be found in more isolated regions where access to power is difficult.
So, what stages are included in an off grid solar system working? As with conventional systems, the panels absorb sunlight and transmit it to an inverter, which transforms the energy into electricity. Finally, it is sent to a battery inverter, where the energy is stored until needed. As you can see, there are a lot of moving pieces. After this, let’s learn about off grid solar system working principle.
What is Off Grid Solar System Working Principle?
According to the Off grid solar system working principle, the off-grid solar system is not connected to the power grid; instead, the energy produced by the sun’s rays during the day is stored in batteries. This approach is effective for residences that do not have access to the grid’s electricity and are thus entirely self-sufficient. The power stored in the batteries is used by residences at night and at times when the solar panels are unable to generate the required amount of electricity.
Because there is no standard or typical off-grid system, this type of solar system is usually designed to meet the electricity needs of the home.
Step 1: The power hub is where solar rays are transformed into electricity for usage or storage in batteries. As a result, this hub controls the flow of electricity.
Step 2: The batteries are an important part of this system because they store any excess electricity that is then used when the solar panels are not producing electricity for any reason.
Step 3: You might also use a backup generator to provide power to recharge the batteries if bad weather or peak demand persists for an extended period of time.
Step 4: Because this system is compatible with the existing system, no adjustments to the wiring or other equipment in your home are required. The electricity generated will power all of your home appliances. Your main electricity distribution panel will supply this electricity to your house.
What Exactly is an Off-Grid Battery?
When you think of a solar battery, you might imagine something like a modified automobile battery. They are, however, substantially larger than the normal car battery. And these are typically used in the process off grid solar system working.
An off-grid battery, often known as a solar battery, is essentially a big deep-cycle battery. They come in a variety of sizes. Some are little, while others are extremely enormous. Before purchasing a solar battery, be sure it is large enough to power what you want to power and has the capacity to power your home. Second, make certain that it is of great quality and will last. Solar batteries can be very expensive, and you don’t want to have to buy them all the time. After this, let’s get insights on off grid solar system components.
What are the Off Grid Solar System Components?
Most DC-coupled Off Grid Solar System components are solar panels, charger controllers, inverters, and battery banks. There is a lot more that may go into setting up a solar system, but those are the four basic components that will be covered in this post.
Solar Panels and Installation
Solar panels are the most visible component of an off-grid solar installation. Solar panels with 60, 72, 120, 132, or 144 cells are currently the most cost-effective. Solar cells are the little squares that comprise the complete panel. Monocrystalline panels are now the industry standard in most systems.
Why choose monocrystalline panels over polycrystalline panels? It all boils down to availability and price. Because the industry has transitioned to producing cost-effective monocrystalline modules, monocrystalline panels are most commonly used in off-grid solar systems. Polycrystalline panels had an advantage in the early days since they were less expensive to manufacture. Because monocrystalline has grown more common, efficient, and economical, there is no longer a compelling need to use polycrystalline.
How to Calculate Inverter Battery Backup Time
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Off-Grid Solar Meets Off-Grid Living
Nowadays, people hastily coin off-grid living on those who live in a secluded part of the forest or who grow all their food. However, true off-grid living involves living completely off the grid. Off-grid living involves having your electrical needs met by other means then the mainline grid, such as with solar power.
However, while true off-grid living involves some type of alternative power for your abode, it often coincides with living in a secluded forest or growing all your food. Off-grid living embodies a return to our simple roots.
Check out this off-grid family of 3 and discover a complete taste of how off-grid solar meets off-grid living in perfect harmony.
The Bottom Line of “What is an Off-Grid Solar System”
Off-grid solar systems are a compilation of important components, the solar panels, the charge controllers, the batteries, and the inverters. The whole combo results in 100% renewable energy and power for your home.
Aren’t you pretty much “blind-sided” by the brilliance of this invention!?
If you want to embark on true off-grid living, then start your journey right now by choosing an off-grid solar energy system today!
Want to Grow Your Off-Grid Installations? Get Help From An Industry Leader
Zonna Energy is a full-service supplier for solar installers across North America and the Caribbean. Why should you source your solar systems from us? Consider the following:
- We have partnered with the leading brands of the off-grid industry to bring you, the installer, the highest quality products at unbelievable prices.
- All our team members have 5 to 15 years of experience in designing and installation of RE systems.
- We believe that every customer should be treated as family and receive pricing and support that grows your business, your brand, and your profits.
- We have distribution centers in Millersburg Ohio and New Holland Pennsylvania to assure your products get shipped in a timely manner. In fact, if you order by 3:00 pm, your shipment will leave on the same day your order was placed.
When it comes to keeping your margins wide while increasing your customer satisfaction, your solar energy equipment supplier is a significant factor. Don’t get left behind your competition, choose Zonna to supply your equipment. Our low costs, quick shipping, and expert advice will keep you and your customers smiling from one job to the next. Feel free to call us any time, we would love to chat and discuss your off-grid goals.