Solar energy is a renewable source of energy which relies on the sun’s energy to generate electricity. This form of energy is one of the most sustainable forms available, and as the use of electricity becomes more prominent, the demand for clean energy sources increases. This is certainly a positive trend to see.
It is well known that the sun provides us with more than enough energy to meet our demands. As humans have become more efficient at utilizing this free energy source, the demand for clean energy has increased. This increase has given rise to the development of alternative sources of energy such as wind and solar which can be used to generate electricity.
However, despite the advantages that solar energy offers, it does come with its challenges. Principally, the sun is not a constant source of energy. It does not always shine, and when it does not, the result can be an insufficient supply of electricity. This is why having alternative power sources such as wind is essential.
With wind, humans can still enjoy the scenic views of nature without having to worry about the electricity grid going down. Additionally, when there is no wind, we are unable to produce electricity which means that we are totally dependent on alternative sources. While this may not seem like a problem, when there are a number of people relying on a single energy source, unexpected issues can arise.
Solar is often touted as a clean energy source, and while this is certainly true, the amount of electricity it produces is often dependent on the weather conditions and the time of day. When these factors are not in our favor, we can end up with severe power cuts which leave us with no electricity at all. As you may imagine, this is not very practical.
These problems are most often associated with grid-tied solar systems. These are systems where the electricity generated by the solar panels is fed directly into the electrical grid. The reason behind this is that the electricity grid is the easiest and the most convenient way for the majority of people to consume electricity. If we compare this to off-grid solar systems where the electricity is stored in batteries and used as needed, we can see that this is a much more practical and efficient way to use solar energy. The batteries allow us to store electricity for later use which is why it is often referred to as ‘battery backed’ solar energy. This type of setup makes more sense when you are anticipating temporary or predictable short-term power cuts.
The Advantages Of Off-Grid Solar Energy
Off-grid solar energy provides us with a number of advantages. Principally, it allows us to use solar energy when and where we want. As we have already discussed, this can be problematic with regards to the sun’s energy source fluctuation, but the advantages of off-grid solar far outweigh this issue. The main advantages are:
It Is Independent Of The Weather
One of the main advantages of having solar energy independent of the weather is that we do not need to worry about the conditions under which we will be able to generate electricity. The sun will shine on us whether we are in the middle of a snowstorm or a glorious summer day, and this makes it much easier to generate as much electricity as we need. This is particularly useful if we are trying to power a small electronic device such as a smartphone or a tablet. These devices often rely on lithium-ion batteries which have a limited amount of charge that they can hold. If we think back to the example we gave earlier about a smartphone, it becomes clear that having extra batteries which can hold a charge is not practical if we are depending on grid electricity because if the grid goes down, then the batteries will be unable to provide power for the device which leaves us with no alternative but to find a way to manually generate electricity.
It Allows For Flexibility
One of the advantages of off-grid solar energy is that it allows for flexibility. This flexibility comes in the form of two features; first, it allows us to use intermittent solar energy sources which can vary in both amplitude and frequency, and second, it allows us to generate as much or as little electricity as we need. This feature is useful because it means we do not have to worry about over- or under-consumption as much. It also means we can use more sophisticated energy management techniques including demand response management and storage which enable us to better anticipate future electricity needs. For instance, if we think back to our previous example, it is clear that if the weather conditions vary and the wind does not blow strongly enough to turn the wind turbine, then we will not be able to generate as much electricity as we need. In these situations, it is often beneficial to store some electricity in batteries so we can use it later when the conditions are right for generating electricity. This is often the case when you are relying on solar energy to generate your electricity so storing some electricity can be extremely beneficial.
It Is Resilient
Another advantage of off-grid solar energy is that it is resilient. When we lose power, we lose everything. This can be extremely inconvenient and sometimes even dangerous if we are not prepared for unexpected power cuts. It is therefore advantageous to have a strategy in place which enables us to survive these power cuts. Resilience entails being able to continue operating at reduced capacity when certain parts of the power network experience downtime or failure. A lot of research goes into developing power systems which are more resilient so they can withstand long periods of downtime without experiencing too much of a performance drop. Off-grid solar energy is often the preferred choice in places where power reliability is a concern so it is essential to have this type of setup when trying to create a self-sufficient household.
The Disadvantages Of Off-Grid Solar Energy
While off-grid solar energy provides us with a number of advantages, it also comes with some disadvantages. Principally, it relies on the sun’s energy which can be unpredictable, and it does not store energy so when the sun does not shine, we have no electricity. Additionally, if you live in a place where extreme weather conditions are common and you are planning to use solar energy as a form of electricity generation then you will want to ensure that your power system is built to withstand these conditions. Investing in a power system designed for the Canadian weather will increase its lifespan significantly. If we compare this to powering devices with grid electricity where we can expect standard service and a much longer lifespan, we can see that this is a major issue.
These are all valid points, and they are certainly a good reason to consider alternative sources of energy. However, as we have discussed, off-grid solar energy provides a wide range of advantages which make it the clear choice for those who want to generate as much energy as they can from a renewable source and eliminate their dependence on the grid. In situations where the grid goes down frequently or for long periods of time, it is preferable to have a power system which can operate independently of the grid. In these situations, off-grid solar energy can be a practical choice.
To summarize, off-grid solar energy provides us with a number of advantages which make it the clear choice for those who want to eliminate their reliance on the grid for electricity. If you are in a place where extreme weather conditions are a major issue, then you might consider investing in a power system designed for the Canadian climate which will increase its lifespan significantly. Off-grid solar is often the preferred choice in places where power reliability is a concern so having this form of energy in your energy portfolio is always a good idea.