When talking about renewable energy systems (RE systems), you often hear the words going off the grid. Going off the grid is simply that; unplugging your energy supply from any service provider and becoming your own power plant. If you’re planning going green with a RE system, you may want to consider unplugging from the grid. Benefits and disadvantages weigh in on both sides of the argument-is going off-grid worth it?
When I bought my first piece of land, it was a long way from any power lines. It would have cost me a small fortune to run power lines to my property, so I knew right away I had to create my own power. It was cheaper to stay off-grid.
But more often than not, your property doesn’t have that problem and a cheap, quick source of energy is constantly available-for a fee-from the nearest power line. To avoid the fee, you want to install some form of RE system-solar, wind, etc.
Tax breaks on solar, wind and other RE systems can greatly sway your opinion on becoming your own power plant. But the truth of the matter is, in most states, it is required that the system be hooked in the grid. This allows the excess energy to be sold back to the power company. It’s a win-win situation for both consumer and supplier. Consumer gets free power, sells a little back and is happy. Supplier has one less consumer and power demand goes down.
Sounds like the perfect investment? Think again. Many off-grid solar systems cost well into the $50,000+ range-and that’s just the cost of materials! When you buy solar equipment, you also have to cut down on power consumption. That translates into a complete replacement of most energy hogging appliances, another hefty cost. Unless you’ve been saving for a long time, going off-grid just isn’t going to happen for most of us.
That’s why most RE systems are just stepping stones towards zero energy homes. Staying plugged into the grid allows you to still maintain comfort and lower your energy consumption to the point of near zero. This starts with a basic maintenance free RE system, typically controlling one major aspect of the homes power consumption. This alleviates the need for new appliances and concentrates the needs for one system such as heating and cooling or lighting and water heating.
The answer to the question-is going off the grid for me?-does not have a simple answer. Your needs, your homes needs and the political needs of the RE system must be met to have harmony with your energy consumption demands.