If this is already discussed in a separate thread, please forgive my oversight and simply direct me.
I know there has to be pros and cons about this issue, but I'd love to hear from the permies here about these pros and cons. But, is there any way we can have this conversation without people's commercial interests influencing this discussion? I've read several things online about grid-tied systems and non-grid-tied systems and I usually find out the person or organization has a commercial interest one way or the other.
So, with the obligatory "It depends" let's discuss what it depends on and why a solution might be better than another for a homestead trying to be as self sufficient as possible.
I think its easier to look at the economic argument first .
Is your property on the grid ?
If not how much will it cost to get it on the grid ? If its loads of cash then its a no brainer .
If it is on the grid how much will the grid pay you for your surplus ? can you use the grid as your battery ?
How much will a battery array cost ? how much more generation could I get for the cost of the battery array . Each property will be different you need to crunch the numbers .
For me I would go with the grid if the sums add up , batterys are not cheap messy and full of stuff I would not rather have in the home .
Living in Anjou , France,
For the many not for the few
We weren't on grid, but we were close to the grid. It meant that we didn't have to buy batteries, and more to the point we would never have the expense of replacing batteries, which was a major consideration as I could have completely run out of money by the time they would need changing. At the moment we can sell surplus electricity to the grid, though there is a cap on the total paid in a year. They pay monthly, so with luck I'll have a regular, albeit small, income. There's also the convenience. If we have weeks of rain and one of us falls ill, we still have power at the push of a button, no matter what time of day or night.
I've had criticism for my decision, from some surprising sources, but I still think it was the right decision for us. The feel-good factor is high, the income is welcome, there's a sense of security that I should never run completely out of income, and I think the amount sold to the grid pretty well wipes out all my carbon footprint.
A couple of years ago, I did a solar install as part of a commercial shop conversion to a home.
Our local electric company (Rocky Mt. Power) is trying to make solar a poor option with grid tie fees and net metering that does not pay for excess production, so we installed a manual transfer switch for the grid tie.
They are on solar with a battery back-up just like off-grid, unless they need more power, then they throw the switch and are grid connected. This has been very effective and the transfer switch was around $125.
While the power company policy and rebates are a huge part of the financial question, first double check your goal: is it to provide financial or physical resiliency?
Grid tie is a straight financial investment. Run your numbers conservatively and see how many years for ROI.
Off grid when grid is available is all about independence and resilience, much harder to put a value on.
Then there are hybrids. Mostly grid tie, but a really small battery backup so they can run when the grid goes down--usually to run a small AC in the daytime and only a few lights at night.
If you are going down this rabbit hole, don't forget to look at wind and woodgas if you have a fuel source.
"You must be the change you want to see in the world." "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Mahatma Gandhi
"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." --Francis of Assisi.
"Family farms work when the whole family works the farm." -- Adam Klaus
The answer inevitably depends on local conditions. My answer assumes you already have grid power. If you have to pay for lines to your place then I think off grid is a no brainer.
Here in Ontario, you can go grid tied by paying $30 grid access fee each month. That lets you use the grid as your battery. You might think well to hell with that I'll buy my own. Well if you budget $10,000 for batteries the monthly interest on that would be $41 at 5%. So financially going grid tied saves you $11 a month. Not a ton of cash but every penny counts. Plus maintaining batteries is one less thing to worry about. You dont have to worry about running out of power when its dark and cold in January and all of the nice clean electricity you produce is used either you or the grid when you have surpluses in summer.
What about from an environmental perspective? Most of my energy use (85%) is in evenings and weekends when sun is not shinning (why does it always rain on Saturdays! haha). In Ontario we have our baseload electrical needs met by nuclear and hydroelectric. Both are low carbon energy sources. During the day when demand is at peak natural gas fired plants are used -- cleaner than coal but still emit CO2. It would seem to me that every watt of clean solar power my panels will produce would offset the need for a watt produced by nat gas and reduces CO2 output. When I come home my grid produced is low carbon nuclear and hydro. So if I were to go off grid my pannels would replace very low carbon energy (off peak grid) with no carbon solar. But if I went grid tied my panels would replace higher CO2 energy with no C02 energy so I think in the fight against climate change going grid tied is a bit better. Plus it makes financial sense, in Ontario anyways.
The sun's a light bulb and the moon is a mirror-- Gord Downie
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