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Off-grid solar - when is it the right choice?

Hearing about off-grid solar in the media and think it sounds like a good idea? It can be for those in the right circumstances, so read on to see if it would meet your needs.

Major components of an off-grid solar system

Much of an off-grid solar installation is the same as a regular solar solution - the same solar panels, inverter, roof mounting system and electrical accessories. But in addition, an off-grid solar solution requires a solar battery and a multimode inverter. An alternative power source as a backup is also highly recommended.

Correctly sizing the system for your circumstances

Understanding how to choose the correct size for an off-grid solar system is crucial. Much more so than with a grid-connected solar installation.

For example, when you’re connected to the grid there is more freedom to match the size of your installation to your budget. Even if you can’t quite afford the right-sized system for your requirements you’ll still be able to access the remaining power you need from the grid. With an off-grid solution, if your installation is under-sized for your needs … you’ll be literally in the dark.

Considerations your solar installer will take into account when designing an off-grid solar installation include:

  • the weather conditions and weather patterns in your local area at the least sunny times of the year - the amount of sunlight available during winter months will impact how many solar panels you require to meet your energy needs.

  • what backup power method are you using - if you are relying 100% on solar then the battery capacity will need to be able to store at least three days of power for your needs. If you have a readily available alternative backup power source like wind or generator a larger solar battery storage capacity may not be as necessary.

  • Calculations around the property’s daily power consumption plus the simultaneous power requirements - so looking at both how much power your appliances use across a day and also how much power is needed at the peak times when multiple appliances are in use at the same time.

Here is a handy solar calculator as a starting point for establishing your energy requirements.

Is going off-grid right for you?

Being sustainable, independent and using a wholly renewable source of energy is appealing for many. But the higher cost than a regular solar installation can be seen as a barrier to entry for those living within reach of the electricity grid. Additional considerations are that if something goes wrong with your off-grid power supply there is no utility company to call for support. And in the event that your off-grid installation is producing more electricity than you can use or store in your solar battery, there is no option to sell your excess into the grid system where it will be used by others.

Aside from an environmentally sustainable and independent power source, another major reason to go off-grid is the prohibitive cost of bringing power onto a rural property. Sometimes this can be in excess of $100,000 and then you will still be paying power bills once it’s hooked up. If the cost of your off-grid solar system is below the cost of connecting to the grid and meets your entire energy requirements, you will save year-on-year by not having to pay energy bills after installation.

Hybrid as an alternative

Hybrid solar systems can bridge the gap between on-grid and completely off-grid solar. A hybrid solar installation includes a solar battery for storage of your energy but also includes a connection to the public electricity grid.

The advantages are threefold - in a blackout situation you have stored energy in your battery for your power needs; if you are generating excess electricity you have the capacity to sell back to the grid; and in the case of a failure with your equipment, the grid can act as your backup supply.

How much does hybrid and off-grid solar cost?

Innovate Energy recommended solar products are:

Average Prices for off-grid solar systems are as follows:

  • Small 2Br home or shed: $15,000 – $25,000

  • Small 3Br home: $20 000 – $30,000

  • Average 4Br home: $30,000 – $50,000

  • Heavy power user: $50,000 – $70,000+

Approximate backup generator costs, installed are:

  • Hyundai 7kva - $4000

  • Hyundai 11kva - $8800

Of course, the pricing above is very general and each design needs to take into account your individual energy profile. Also, help with financing is available from Brighte Green Loans - the financing company on a mission to make every home sustainable.

Get in touch for a quote about your off-grid, hybrid, or grid-connected solar installation.