Going Off-Grid with Solar Power

by James Florence


With the right application, going off-grid with solar power can be an advantageous option. Photo: Freedom Solar, Inc. (2014)

With the growing popularity of solar power, more and more homeowners are making the switch to this affordable, environmentally-friendly energy source. However, many are unaware of the scope of their options, particularly in regard to on- and off-grid systems. While the majority of solar power systems are connected to the main utility grid, off-grid installations remain independent of central power, which can be a beneficial option under the right circumstances.

Though the installation costs can make an off-grid system less financially viable in areas with access to central utilities, for those living in remote locations, it can be quite cost-effective. “If you’re building a house up in the country that’s a mile or more away from utility power, you have a couple of options,” explains Mr. Shafer. “One is to have the utility company bring power to you, which requires the installation of new power poles at about $10,000 apiece. Your other option is to have an off-grid solar power system installed, which tends to be far more affordable both in the short and long term.”

In addition to financial incentives, personal motivations can come to bear on the decision to go off-grid. “Some people are tired of paying their utility companies, and others simply want to reduce their carbon footprint,” says Mr. Shafer. “Whether for independence or environmental sustainability, these people feel it’s worth the extra financial investment for an off-grid system.”

While going off-grid may be a personal preference for some, for others it’s a decision based on specific needs. For those with health conditions that require electrically powered medical equipment, an off-grid system can offer greater assurance against outages. “If a power line goes down, people attached to the main grid will lose power, but people with off-grid systems will remain unaffected,” explains Mr. Shafer. “For people who need machines to assist with breathing and other functions, an off-grid system can be a real lifesaver.”

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