Gain Energy Independence

The concept of having an energy independent home is enticing, but what exactly does that mean, and what does it take to get there?

With energy storage technology advancing so rapidly, you can now, more easily and cost-effectively than ever, rely on a combination of solar panels with a battery backup to satisfy your energy requirements.

Benefits of energy independence:

  • You’ll no longer be a victim to utility rate increases since you’ll be in complete control of how you source the power you need.
  • You’ll have the peace of mind of knowing exactly where your power is coming from.
  • The energy you’re consuming will be 100% renewable, unlike power sourced from utility companies that rely on a combination of renewable (solar, water, and wind) and nonrenewable (natural gas, coal, and nuclear) sources.
  • With a battery backup, you’ll be protected against losing power during a blackout.

You may be wondering why you need a battery backup in order to have power during a blackout. Why couldn’t you just continue accessing the energy as it’s generated from your solar system? If you’re connected to the grid but don’t have a solar battery, there are two reasons why you’d lose power in a blackout. One reason is technical and the second has to do with safety and regulations.

  1. Solar systems produce an unpredictable amount of power during the day as the sunlight changes and that quantity of power is independent from how much power you’re using in that moment. The grid regulates your power intake by acting as a massive storage system that your solar power feeds into and allows you to draw from. Connecting your solar system directly to your electrical system would result in power surges that could damage your electronics and appliances and cause your lights to flicker.
  2. Solar systems are set up to be able to detect whether or not power is coming across the grid. When the grid is down, solar systems also shut down in order to protect repair crews working during a blackout to identify and repair the points of failure. Power leaking onto the grid lines could potentially be hazardous for those crews, which is why utilities mandate that solar systems get shut down.

Energy Independent vs. Off-Grid

Do you need to go off-grid in order to have a net zero home? Let’s start by looking at what it means to become energy independent. Having a self-sustaining home means being in control of where your energy comes from, which in turn enables you to reduce your energy costs.

If your solar panels produce enough electricity to keep up with your energy consumption, then the need for you to pull any energy from the grid will likely be very infrequent. If you produce just as much renewable energy as you consume, you’ll have a net zero energy bill, but most homeowners still choose to connect to the grid so that they can sell any excess energy their system generates back to the grid, and so that they can use the grid as an unlimited backup source in the event that their energy production doesn’t keep up with their consumption. That way, if friends coming over for a dinner party on a hot evening want to charge their electric vehicles while you’re blasting the AC and using every appliance in the kitchen, you don’t have to worry about running out of power.

Do I need a solar battery if I’m not off-grid?

Let’s dig deeper into what your options are when your existing solar system has a surplus of energy. That excess photovoltaic energy can either be exchanged for net metering credits, or stored in a solar battery, or a combination of both.

Net metering credits can be earned when you transfer energy your solar system has produced back to your utility company in exchange for a credit. While the exact specifics vary by utility company, some net metering credits are issued at a rate commensurate with the rate at the time of day you’re selling energy back to the grid, which is called Time of Use (TOU) net metering.

Since energy is cheapest to buy from utility companies during the day and most expensive during peak usage hours in the evening, you can use a solar battery for grid arbitrage. This means that you would charge your battery with your solar energy instead of feeding it back to the grid during low cost hours. Then, you would switch to using your stored energy and selling your excess energy back to the grid during peak hours for a higher price than you paid to use the grid’s energy during the day.

Having a solar battery gives you a lot more freedom in choosing how to store, sell, and use the energy your system has created rather than relying on the grid as your only option. So while having a solar battery isn’t necessary, there are many added benefits to consider that help offset the additional cost.

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