In this article we’ll discuss how solar power works and what is solar power.
Solar Power is the most popular energy solution among off-grid lovers. Why? It’s easy to carry, convenient, and reliable. Moreover, our technology right now can only provide little alternative to mobile and easy to handle energy solution.
A generator also provides a much needed electricity. However it requires fuel which is really expensive to maintain. Therefore, off-grid enthusiasts prefer solar power systems. It only requires direct sunlight to work.
How Solar Power Works; A Reliable Off-Grid Energy Solution
Solar power works via solar panels. The solar panels convert solar energy coming from the sunlight into DC power. The DC power converts into AC power via a solar inverter. The AC power powers up your off-grid home. That is basically how solar power works.
However, Solar power also have different systems. Different solar power systems provide a certain level of energy convenience. Some can store excess solar energy through a battery system or use it to feed an electricity grid.
Main Components of a Solar Power System
Almost all modern solar panels are made of silicon cells or photovoltaic (PV) cells. This cells generate direct current (DC) from sunlight. The PV cells are linked together in the solar panels. Cables connect the PV cells into the adjacent panels.
Furthermore, the solar panel works not by the heat energy it receives but the light energy coming from the sunlight.
The downside of using solar panels is that when it’s dark, you won’t be generating energy. However, solar panels can still generate energy during cloudy or not so shiny days. But the amount of energy it can generate is not the same as when it’s direct sunlight. That’s how solar power works.
The amount of light energy is termed as solar irradiation. We use the term Peak Sun Hours (PSH) to calculate the solar irradiation.
While Solar panels generate DC electricity from sunlight, the Solar inverter converts the DC electricity into AC electricity. Do note that you can only use AC electricity to power up home appliances. Hence, the need for an inverter.
The solar panels, linked together generates the DC electricity which converts the DC power to AC power. That’s how solar power works.
In a micro inverter system, each solar panel has a micro inverter of their own. The panel still generates DC power but is converted in AC power at the rooftop. The electricity generated also goes to the electric switchboard.
Furthermore, a more advanced solar inverter uses a thing called power optimisers. This power optimiser monitor and control each individual panels and make sure that it’s working at maximum efficiency.
A switchboard is the receiver of the AC electricity from the solar inverter. The switchboard directs the needed electricity to various circuits around your off-grid home. Helping your appliances to work.
The excess electricity from the solar power system is either sent to the electricity grid. A battery storage system can also store it (but it depends on what solar power system you’re using). We’ll discuss this further in the article.
This really helps off-grid homes which don’t have supply of local electricity. Therefore, having stored electricity means that your off-grid home will still have electricity during the night.
Types of Solar Power Systems
On-grid power systems also known as grid-tie or grid-feed solar system is the most common and widely used by urban homes and businesses. It doesn’t need batteries and use common solar inverters.
Furthermore, on-grid power system connects to the public electricity grid (which means it isn’t viable for off-grid homes). However, the excess solar power that you generate goes to the public electricity grid. You get paid a feed-in-tariff (FiT) or credits for exporting your electricity. That’s how solar power works for on-grid systems.
The downside however of on-grid solar power system is that they don’t function during blackouts. This is for precautionary measures and safety reasons. This is mainly because the system is connected to the public electricity grid. It would be a disaster if the reason for the blackout was a damage in the electricity grid and your solar power system is still feeding energy into it.
You can also install batteries to on-grid systems if you want. Do also note that when using on-grid system you might incur electricity bill because you’re using more energy than what your solar power system can produce.
2) Off-Grid System
Off-grid system is also known as a stand-alone power system (SAPS). Unlike the on-grid system, the off-grid doesn’t connect to the public electricity grid. Instead, it uses battery for storage.
Off-grid systems are designed for off-grid homes. Therefore, they’re built so that it can generate power enough to meet the needs of an off-grid home. The storage capacity of the battery must also be long-lasting. That’s how solar power works.
Especially during winters, off-grid homes suffer a lot from lack of sunlight. Therefore, some off-grid systems work with certain scenarios. They can store energy that can last you enough for the winter and some even for a year!
However with good quality also comes a compromise. Good quality off-grid solar power systems are expensive compared to on-grid systems. But battery prices have been going down recently which means the pricing isn’t comparable than it was before.
However, if you don’t have the budget to go all out for off-grid systems that can help you through winter or store a large amount of energy. You can always try traditional methods like a campfire or a fire pit. But you must also be responsible in using it. You don’t want to be the cause of a forest fire.
3) Hybrid System
A hybrid system is just a combination of the two prior systems. A hybrid system can use a battery storage while at the same time be connected to a public electricity grid. This means you can get the best of both systems.
So if ever that night comes or its winter you can use your battery as a backup energy solution. And if the battery runs out you can tap into the public electricity grid for power but you have to pay for the electric bills thou.
This really is a convenient way to lessen your expenses and at the same time not compromise on losing electricity during certain scenarios like winter.
Best Choice for Off-Grid Enthusiasts
Clearly there is no other option for us but to go with the off-grid system. Usually we off-grid enthusiasts tend to live in areas where there is no public electricity grid. Some prefer to live a life with nature and isolation from modern world. Therefore, no public electricity grid source.
For off-grid enthuusiasts who prefers to have a secure electricity connection or can’t afford to own an expensive off-grid system, it’s better to stay near a public electricity grid. Either use an on-grid or a hybrid system. Modern countries right now have public electricity grid even in the remote areas. So you should still be able to feel that you’re living off the grid.
Solar Power is no doubt a popular energy solution for every off-grid enthusiasts. If you haven’t tried one, then you should! It’s a good investment. Why? Because you can save off from electric bills while at the same time living the off-grid life.
Although, if you’re still living within civilization, solar power systems are still a good buy for energy savings.
Also do remember to always consult a professional when buying or installing a solar power system. Professionals know more than us how solar power works. However, if you want to try installing it on your own, you can always check the web and ask other off-grid enthusiasts for help.