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March 17, 2024

Guide to Off-Grid Solar Systems

Off grid solar energy

Traditionally, UK homes have been powered by electricity generated by large, central power stations and distributed by the National Grid company along transmission lines. However, more and more householders are becoming increasingly concerned about rising energy costs and the environmental damage associated with this system.

As such, savvy environmentally-friendly households are exploring ways to generate their own electricity on-site to lessen reliance on the grid. Standard solar energy systems provide the main solution here.

Others consider taking their use of solar further by completely eliminating the need to rely on the grid. This is where off-grid solar energy systems come in. 

You can learn all about off-grid solar in this post, including its environmental benefits, costs and savings, and whether off-grid solar systems could be a good choice for you.


What Is Solar Power?

Solar power is an infinite, renewable source of energy that produces no damaging greenhouse gas emissions. Besides reducing carbon footprint, it also cuts energy bills.

More than 1.3 million homeowners in the have already installed solar panels in the UK. Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels convert energy from the sun into power. 

They’re made from silicon or another semiconductor that produces an electric charge when exposed to tiny packets of energy – photons of sunlight. The resulting direct current (DC) is converted by a solar inverter into the alternating current (AC) needed to power homes and domestic appliances.


On-Grid Solar Vs Off-Grid Solar

There are two main types of solar systems: on-grid and off-grid. Both consist of solar panels and an inverter to convert DC to AC.

Off-grid solar remains permanently disconnected from the grid. It therefore needs to work differently than an on-grid installation. With an on-grid system, the inverter sends energy into your home, which also connects to the grid via a meter.

With an off-grid system, the inverter also provides your home with power but is connected to a battery bank that stores solar energy. A power generator may also be used as a backup.


Benefits of On-Grid Solar

On-grid solar energy systems – also known as grid-tied systems – provide a reliable power supply that reduces dependence on the National Grid. But they remain connected to the grid so they can draw energy from it in addition to the power they generate themselves.

Grid access can provide power when solar panels aren’t producing enough energy or when storage batteries need time to recharge. A grid-tied system also gives you the opportunity of getting paid for electricity you feed back to the grid under the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG).


Benefits of Off-Grid Solar

Off-grid solar systems run entirely independently of the grid and rely instead on solar battery storage. They provide a means of powering homes in remote locations not connected to the grid. 

Off-grid solar can also be a solution for individuals and families who want to pursue an off-grid life centred on self-sustainability and energy independence.

Living off-grid has become increasingly popular in the UK over the past few years, with an estimated 150,000 households now embracing this lifestyle. With off-grid solar, you get energy independence and will still have electricity during a power cut.


Crucial Role of Battery Storage in Off-Grid Solar

Solar panels will likely produce more electricity than needed as they capture sunlight. during the day. Storing this excess electricity in a solar battery is optional with an on-grid system, but it’s essential with off-grid solar.

It will be the only source of power when solar panels aren’t generating enough electricity during the hours of darkness or when there’s heavy cloud cover that is reducing solar production levels.

As with grid-tied systems, you can increase the efficiency of off-grid solar by expanding output and battery capacity as your energy needs grow.


Cost of Going Solar 

The cost of going solar has fallen significantly in recent years. Supply and installation of a 4kW system, for example, costs around £9,500. 

However, off-grid solar systems can cost twice as much as a grid-tied installation. This is because they need more solar panels, a larger inverter, additional energy storage requirements, and possibly a generator.

Off-grid solar costs can also vary widely because of the variety in sizes, applications, and components.


Extra Savings of Off-Grid Solar

An on-grid solar energy system can cut household electricity bills by up to 70%. A major advantage of a completely off-the-grid solar energy system is that you won’t get any electricity bills at all.

With a grid-tied system, the electricity company enforces standing charges even when you’re not using any of their energy. This can cost you about £200 a year just to keep your grid connection.


Solar Hybrid Systems

Solar hybrid energy systems give you full control over your power. They connect to the grid but also have a battery bank to store electricity. This means you can save the power your solar panels generate during the day and use it later.

Solar hybrid systems also come with an inverter that can channel AC power from the grid to your property when necessary.

Hybrid solar is more expensive owing to additional battery costs. But it reduces reliance on grid electricity during the daylight hours when it costs more. It does this by switching between grid power, solar power, and battery storage. 

If the grid goes down because of a storm or technical glitches, you’ll still have electricity.


Disadvantages of Reliance on the National Grid

There are two major disadvantages with traditional large-scale power stations and the national grid system.

With the drive towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050, concerns have intensified about power generation using fossil fuels. It contributes to the environmental pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change.

A further problem is the high cost of household energy. Although prices are expected to fall later in 2024, they’re likely to remain well above pre-energy crisis levels.

These are the main reasons that have led to an increasing number of homeowners turning to solar power.


Government Decarbonisation Plans

The government’s net zero strategy relies largely on decarbonising the power sector by 2035. Measures centre on replacing gas-fired power stations with solar, wind, and nuclear power generation.

However, Parliament itself is sceptical about the credibility of these ambitions. A 2023 report by the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts highlighted concerns about lack of an overall delivery plan and doubts about whether decarbonisation could meet the expected substantial increase in demand for electricity.

What’s beyond doubt are the immediate benefits for homeowners who install an on-grid or off-grid solar energy system.


Benefits of Going Solar

Solar power is becoming increasingly popular with homeowners looking to save money on energy bills and reduce their carbon footprint. Most solar installations are on-grid systems that allow households to draw electricity from the grid in addition to their solar energy supply. However, some people choose to go solar as a means of achieving total independence of the grid.

Whichever your preference, you’ll be reducing your carbon footprint. And substantially lower energy bills mean your solar energy system will pay for itself over time, regardless of rises in prices of grid electricity.

If you’d like to know more about the benefits of going solar, the team at leading national solar energy specialist Effective Home can help.

Contact us online or call 0333 003 0703. We can arrange a free home survey and a solar energy installation plan tailored to your specific needs.

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Justine Effective
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