By N. R. Mallery
Interest in off-grid living, generating your own electricity through a renewable energy system, is starting to grow again, for a number of reasons. Just a few of the reasons are as follows.
You might want to go off-grid just to save money.
You plan to build in a location where the cost to bring in electricity from the grid is more costly than if you just went off the grid with a solar or perhaps a hybrid wind and solar, or solar and a micro-hydro system, depending on what you have available.
The cost of solar today has dropped so low that your payback time, if there is a loan, is much less than what most now pay for being connected to the grid. When your system is paid off, you have electricity with no utility bill. Imagine how much this can save you! In some situations this is break-even the moment the system is installed, because the solar system costs will likely be quite a bit less than the costs to bring in power from the grid.
But going off the grid is not just ‘plug and play.’ There is a responsibility for maintenance of the system. It is important to understand that for an off-grid system to work to your benefit financially, attention needs to be made to assure that everything is running smoothly. Most of the time it will be, but if there is a problem that is not attended to, neglecting to monitor the health of your system could be costly. These problems and costs in most cases can be avoided. Batteries require maintenance. The battery bank is your own personal power company. But, as you will see in the next issue of Green Energy Times, like solar applications which have no moving parts and can last 30 years or longer, so can a battery bank. If taken care of correctly, both can last for a very long time. Stay tuned for more about this in our April 2017 issue.
You might want to go off-grid for energy security.
Taking responsibly for your own energy needs through a renewable energy system gives you security that you not only have energy when you want it but also continuously — even when the grid goes down. Let’s face it — power lines go down in storms, or you lose power for a number of reasons. In a massive outage, it can sometimes take a day or even a week or more to restore power to some of the more remote homes. And as we saw when Irene hit this area, sometimes whole towns are without power, and the creature comforts and necessities of life are suddenly gone. When this happens, the things we rely on every day, such as refrigeration, cooking, heating and cooling and even the reliance on our computers and connection to the world are simply lost unless we have an alternative source for our energy needs. Sometimes a generator can help, but if there is no means to get fuel, that is temporary, as well. However, a renewable energy system with battery storage can pretty much assure the energy security that we have come to rely on so heavily today.
An off-grid energy system is your own personal power company. This means that those who live off-grid or even on the grid with battery storage which can be disconnected from the grid, have much greater energy security.
Surprising news for off-grid assistance.
Green Mountain Power (GMP), which supplies electricity to about three-quarters of the people in Vermont, now has a program to help those who go off-grid, do so. They are the first utility to take this step. For a utility company to offer assistance to go off the grid may seem strange, and we might feel compelled to ask what incentive is there for an electric utility to help customers disconnect from it.
The answer is that by helping some customers go off-grid, GMP can reduce maintenance and even retire some electric lines. Also, helping a customer go off-grid is itself a service, for which GMP is actually paid. Each site is unique, so there is no standard price.
Those who live in GMP’s territory and are interested in their help to go off-grid should visit http://bit.ly/GMP-off-grid or call Craig Ferreira at 1-802-747-6818 or 1-888-835-4672. For anyone else, many solar installers advertising in Green Energy Times can be very helpful.
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