So the idea of severing utility bills from your life and maintaining an existence completely independent from power companies has got your interest peaked, huh? Well, generating power off the grid isn’t as simple as slapping a few solar panels on the roof and calling it day. There are several options available when considering self-generated power sources and each comes with its own set of pros and cons. Here’s a list of 4 options and some thoughts on each:
Perhaps the most recognized method of off-the-grid power generation, solar power depends on photovoltaic solar panels to generate electricity. This method is completely dependent on sun exposure, so it’s obviously not the best choice for every location. The biggest downside to solar power is that it requires a considerably large initial investment and is rarely cost effective to power an entire home.
Wind power is another option for generating electricity off the grid, but like solar energy, location plays a huge factor. A region’s average wind speeds must be factored in when determining how much power can actually be generated. Cost is a factor here as well, because the large turbines used in generating wind power have lots of moving parts, which means maintenance expenses. Oh, and did I mention the turbines were large? An average home would need a 10,000 watt turbine to generate enough power to function comfortably, and that translates to a turbine approximately 23 feet wide and often mounted more than 100 feet in the air.
Micro-hydro electricity is my personal favorite method of generating power off the grid. It’s also likely the least known method. This method using running water, like a stream, to generate the power. As with the other methods mentioned so far, location plays a major part in the effectiveness of this option. Water needs to flow from a higher altitude to a lower altitude, where it turns a turbine at the low end. This is a very cost effective option if you have a good water source. It can run and generate power 24/7, and produces up to 100 times more power than solar or wind options for the same initial investment.
If you’re looking to generate power off the grid in an effort to minimize your impact on the environment, gas or diesel powered generators probably aren’t your best option, but they do provide a means to power your house without relying on the public power grid. Generators are normally used for short term power solutions, such as loss of power after a major storm. I live in a region prone to hurricanes so a good genny is a staple in my disaster preparedness kit. However, a generator would need to be of considerable size to power an entire home long term. That usually means diesel fuel and maintenance, both of which are going to require a good chunk of money. It’s a good backup, but if you have the means I would consider one of the other 3 options first.
With a little logistical and financial planning, generating power off the grid is a viable option.