The Idea of Energy from the Sun… Solar panels and solar energy have become popular in recent years. A typical solar panel can capture power from the sun, which is then stored in an elaborate battery system (Jessika Toothman). The amount of energy captured and stored depends on the quality and strength of the solar panels and the batteries.
The idea that energy could be completely detached from the national grid and bring about some autonomy is the key motivating factor for adopting solar energy. Yes, the allure of living a completely self-sufficient and unrestrained life powered by solar energy cannot be wished away.
The idea comes against a backdrop of high global energy prices, cases of the unreliability of national grids, and the lurking possibility of even terrorist attacks being enabled by national grids. Unfolding realities such as the war between Ukraine and Russia have brought to the fore the uncertainties associated with relying on conventional grid power sources.
Interestingly, the US Department of Energy asserts that energy produced by the sun in an hour exceeds a year’s energy needs for the entire world!
This means nature provides more than enough energy to sustain itself. The sun’s energy powering our homes, factories, and other uses, justify the growing global interest in adopting solar energy.
Emerging Technologies Accelerating Adoption of Solar Energy
Even in the face of this reality, however, many nations have enormous deficits in the supply of their energy needs because most sources are not solar-enabled.
Presumably, the challenge of plugging into the excessive energy yielded by the sun lies in harnessing and storing the energy in easy-to-access form(s).
This is, however, quickly changing because of the fast-evolving technologies of solar panel development and battery manufacturing. Many firms are taking a deep interest in solar energy.
It’s logical to assume that the increased attention given to solar energy will lead to more innovations that will eventually reduce installation and other previously prohibitive costs.
Now Before You Go Off-Grid…
That said, a decision to install and wholly depend on solar energy should be motivated by factors beyond the sheer thrill of finally switching off the grid. Besides paying attention to legal implications, proper safety protocols need to be fully observed. It will be pointless to escape the confines of the grid and only land into legal headwinds.
As mentioned beforehand, it’s prudent to review the costs needed to set up everything, including the necessary infrastructure. The costs involved need to be weighed against the long-term dependence on public utility costs. Usually, these costs are high.
Besides the initial installation costs, other considerations must be weighed, especially when you want to wean yourself entirely from the grid. That’s why solar panels are common on rooftops in most homes but still attract some skepticism regarding the plausibility of surviving solely on solar energy.
This means meeting 100% of an individual’s/ corporate entity’s energy needs on-site, without the aid of public utilities, and independent of any other source. This is particularly relevant when considering countries that often become overcast such as the UK.
Further, it should be noted that dissociating from public utility companies entails doing away with infrastructure that previously enabled dependence on grid-power supply.
As a result, there may be a need for specific permissions and/or inspections. Any person considering living off-grid should consider the associated fees that accompany dissociation and the possible certifications, related fees, and costs of adopting a stand-alone solar power system.
Consider Your Energy Needs
A snap view of the energy needed to power typical home appliances may include about 255kWh a year for washing machines, 300kWh for computing needs, about 1,000 kWh for cooking equipment, and 400kWh for an LCD television.
Even though this presents a significantly high energy demand, a robust solar power system with dependable batteries can sustain the entire setup. Going after the small details is the game changer needed to determine whether one can survive solely on solar energy or a hybrid of the grid and solar energy.
Living solely on solar energy also requires reducing the amount of energy used – especially if the supporting equipment cannot sustain heavy loads. One way of doing this is using appliances that are energy efficient. Heavy usage of solar energy has, without a doubt, a corresponding effect on the lifetime of the panel batteries.
It is also notable to understand that going complexly off-grid denies you an opportunity to sell any excel solar power generated back to the grid. The resulting feed-in tariff may be useful in maintaining the solar system and generating some income for homeowners.
This is primarily true during the summer when the days are longer. Besides, staying connected to the grid will provide a back to lean on during the winter (when days are shorter) or cloudy seasons. You can be sure you’ll have energy even when little energy is generated from the solar power setup.
One more thing to think about is the tendency for off-grid systems to be complex and large. The elaborate nature of these systems renders them too expensive for most homeowners. You should consider looking at an expert opinion regarding the choice of the model you’ll want to adopt (off-grid or hybrid) and the consequent costs of installation and maintenance.
That is not meant to wish away the benefits of a decentralized energy system which include but are not limited to reliability, autonomy, decreased harmful emissions, and decreased power bills.
In conclusion, solar power presents amazing possibilities! However, before choosing to tap into the innumerable benefits of solar energy, it is worthwhile to make proper consultations regarding installation costs, legal implications, and the cons of detaching from the national grid.
Also, find accurate estimates of the energy you consume annually and install appropriate infrastructure to support your energy needs.
In addition, make provision for seasons when your region is overcast and how you can have backup energy sources in the event of solar failure. It’s noble to work with numbers to forestall any unfavorable eventualities.
- Jessika Toothman, S. A. (n.d.). How Solar Cells Work. Retrieved from howstuffworks: https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/energy/solar-cell.htm
- How Does Solar Work? (n.d.). Retrieved from The Department of Energy, United States: https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/how-does-solar-work