I’m curious about both the off-grid and grid-tied choices. I know some people have located quite far from the local power lines, and that can be one major reason to commit to off-grid solar, small-hydro, wind (or some combination) for providing electricity.
Even grid-tied is a daunting choice where I live, in the southeast of British Columbia. We have high horizons (ridges) to east and west, a low sun angle in winter, and more than a little cloudy skies — especially fall through to spring. It’ll have to wait for the super-duper p.v. and battery tech that’s possibly coming. Wind is scant and unreliable here, at best. Micro-hydro is usually ruled out because most creeks running near or through homesteads are quite small and run low by late summer — and if larger, they’re hawk-eyed by both residents and the authorities.
When people here do think of alternative energy, they weigh the costs versus likely payback period of a grid-tied system. That has disuaded many.
But I’m starting this thread not because I feel ready to take that speculative financial leap very soon, but because I’d like to know how Permies members have explored the facts and then made their choices, whether off-grid or grid-tied. In terms of their own locations, needs, etc. Have you done it? Do you feel like sharing?
My online educational sites:
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
posted 1 year ago
My choice was made for me by the remoteness of my location. The power lines are miles away, so therefore, standalone was the only option. The wind is reliable and steady, but I chose to use solar, because it is quiet. Wind generation is noisy, and in a remote area there is no point having a sound beacon on the homestead. I keep a backup wind system on hand, and could put it up if solar ever ran short. Solar works in the valley. Wind needs to be on top of the hill: a visual beacon...
My choice was due to no power lines for 2 1/2 miles to connect to.
But even if the power were on the edge of my property, I don't think I would opt to connect.
I prefer the independence of off grid. I also don't like the idea of people being able to walk onto my property to "inspect" the meter or other such things. It is not that I am some sort of paranoid survivalist, but when 100% off grid you have very few people who can legally walk on your property and not be considered trespassers. But once you start opening your property due to adding services, more and more people can legally go on your property.
While the idea of being able to sell power back might seem nice, I just don't view it as enough incentive for me to consider if I were in a position to do so. The cons for me out weigh the benefits.
"Where will you drive your own picket stake? Where will you choose to make your stand? Give me a threshold, a specific point at which you will finally stop running, at which you will finally fight back." (Derrick Jensen)
We have solar electric, off grid. I like the independence. I also like the aspect that I still have power when our on grid neighbors don't during a power outage. Power outages are common enough where I'm living.
The reason for choosing off grid was that it would have cost us around $30,000 to bring electric lines to the house. Our entire solar system cost us less than that. Yes, there was a learning curve going with off grid solar, and we do our own maintenance, but it isn't all that difficult.
Would I hook up to the grid if it were free to do so? No. I've come to like the independence. Plus electricity costs in Hawaii are quite high and will be going higher yet in the future to come. I surely don't miss those monthly bills!
I don't live in a good solar spot. My sun is predominantly before noon. So we had to take that into consideration when we chose the size of our system and the placement of the solar panels. We don't have enough wind and no water source. So solar it is, with a back up generator for cloudy days.
The main thing for us when we went off grid was to learn to use electricity wisely. That took time.
It's never too late to start! I retired to homestead on the slopes of Mauna Loa, an active volcano. I relate snippets of my endeavor on my blog : www.kaufarmer.blogspot.com
I agree with the answers of the other two people who posted before me and I also am not close enough to power lines to connect but if that were to change (someone paid tens of thousands to put a line past my property) I would stay off grid. Even if I produced all of the power I used I would get a bill from the local electric coop for line maintaince and other fees. 8 days ago 2'+ of wet snow knocked out power for thousands of people in my area and some are just now getting it back. My power almost went out until I shoveled the snow off my panels the next day.
You mentioned being between two ridges but early morning and late afternoon sun is to indirect to produce much power anyway so that is not a big factor and panels don't stop producing power on a cloudy day. They just slow down by 10% to 30% so extra panels witch are becoming quite cheap and you still have power or you could postpone things like laundry until you have sun. To me the efficiency of a panel is not measured in Watts per square foot but in Watts per dollar and right now I have seen panels for under .50USD per watt. I doubt that will get much better so why keep paying a bill that will keep going up? You could put in a small system to run part of your load like lighting and use the savings to ad to the system and take over more circuits. I haven't had power bill in years and never will.
We have been completely off the grid since we got our first PV system in 1986. The people who are gird tied are paying a premium for pole maintenance and meter reading. Our initial quote to get the power on was AU$125K. We have spent $15K so far and saved the same amount in 10 years so are in a cash positive situation. The whole system is home built so saving heaps on paying electricians. Just make sure that you follow the building and electrical codes. There is a lot of help out there. In my opinion, unless you are grid tied already or have the biggest AC, cooker and ultra inefficient lighting system go off grid. Look for very efficient white goods such as direct drive DC washing machines and fridge freezer combinations with twin Danfos compressors. Good luck with it all
Just to add to the original post, the power now runs by the front of our house and the earth is in our property - permission not asked. It is costing those around up to $200 per year whether or not they use the power. The average bill is $1,200 (after tax dollars) per year. Some are retirees so they need to put away about 10% of their pension which is a significant impost. On average costs to the locals we pay about 1/2 averaged over 10 years (Battery life). There is currently a big push for lithium technology but we are a bit wary of gassing and bush fire risk. These though will give better savings (up to 20 years).
Failure is a stepping stone to success. Failing is not quitting - Stopping trying is
When our organisation first got land and started building the school in 1994, it was at least 3 km from the nearest power lines. The government might have paid to connect us, but the director felt we could raise and spend less money to make an off-grid system than the government would have spent of taxpayers' money, and so he felt it was more principled to be off-grid. Knowing him, I'd say the technical challenge appealed to him, too, and the appeal of being independent. As it turned out, for the next 18 years our off-grid electricity was much more reliable than mains. The mains gave power only in the evening all winter, often low voltage at any time of year, occasional surges, and never 24 hours continuously even in summer. Only a couple of years ago the region's first hydroelectric dam went online and the mains work for most hours of most days, though still not so great in winter. So our solar/battery system has done us very well all these years.
(But when I move to my own house soon, I'm looking forward to being on the grid and using a toaster, microwave and washing machine, though I'm also considering getting a small solar stand-alone system for some lights and charging, since the mains are still prone to going down once in a while. But I'll keep separate systems, not grid-tied solar.)
Works at a residential alternative high school in the Himalayas SECMOL.org . "Back home" is Cape Cod, E Coast USA.
You can use the microwave, have a toaster and a washing machine with solar. It is the size of the inverter that allows you to use these things. We hate ironing so it is a good excuse. If you consider the power usage of these items a 1,000 watt toaster for 10 minutes is 0.17Kwh or what a 250 watt solar produces in about 1 hour. Sorry I have not calculated inefficiencies but you get the drift. We have a washing machine, fridge/ freezer, box freezer, TV sound system, computers and fixed wireless internet. Have a look at the Victron website https://www.victronenergy.com/ They have very good information. There is also some excellent resources and people here on Permies. In the case of solar: Size does matter. Get it right and you will be the envy or all your friends plus you do not have to work to pay the big end of town and think about income after you retire. Best wishes for your move.
Failure is a stepping stone to success. Failing is not quitting - Stopping trying is
I don't generate my own power and it's mainly due to the utility rates in my area. I spend $50-60 per month for electricity. Half of that is for the luxury of being on the grid. So if I generate my own electricity and grid tie, the most I can save is $25-30. I'd have to go all the way off grid to get the full savings of $50-60. My solar and wind resources are not very good either...
If I could justify the cost either way, I'd go off-grid. That way I'd be self reliant and able to power my house in a power outage. (I know you can do grid tied with battery back-up)
"Hundreds of years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in or the type of car I drove... But the world may be different because I did something so bafflingly crazy that it becomes a tourist destination"
Power is cheap in my area due to this area's hydro power supplies and our solar situation is not ideal but wind could work. Due to all that my strategy moving forward is to focus on reducing what electricity I need. Switch to a gravity based septic system (no pump!), outdoor kitchen to reduce heat generated inside in the summer and reduce electricity for cooking by using wood based systems (grown on site eventually), hand pump and gravity assist water system for power outages and to reduce the load on the pump, plus some other ideas. I will also likely hook up my shed to a solar system. So I will still be tied to the grid but my use will be a lot lower and I hope to be in a place where if the power goes out my day to day living can continue with no big issues. Plus if I ever want to go off grid I won't need to generate as much power but for the moment being hooked up to the grid works fine.
Do you want to work with nature to grow your own food and build/start your homestead? Check out Wild Homesteading so you can gain the skills you need.