Gain Energy Independence
The concept of gaining energy independence with solar and battery storage is exciting, but what exactly does that mean, and what does it take to get there?
Having an energy independent home means producing and storing your own electricity to minimize your reliance on grid electricity from a utility.
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
There’s an endless list of personal, political, and economic reasons to strive for energy independence. Here are a few that stand out:
- You’ll no longer be subject to utility rate increases since you’ll be in complete control of how you source the power you need
- 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 still rely on fossil fuels
- Provide your own backup power during power outages
And let’s not forget that by providing your own energy you’re removing stress from the local grid and more resilient energy system for your community. You’re also decreasing the US’s reliance on fossil fuels and the negative climate impacts they carry.
Related reading: The Pros and Cons of Going Solar
How to create an energy independent home
Creating an energy independent home sounds like a daunting task, but it’s much simpler than it sounds. In fact, people do it every day through our marketplace!
It boils down to two steps that don’t necessarily need to happen in order:
Step 1: Electrify your home. Swap out appliances that run on gas for those that run on electricity (unless you plan on supplying your own natural gas).
Fortunately, there are home electrification incentives for just about every major appliance that take effect on January 1, 2023. Since electricity is cheaper than gas, you’ll more than earn back you’re upfront investment through cheaper operating costs.
Step 2: Install a solar system with battery storage in your home. Solar panels provide cleaner electricity for your home, and batteries storage it to use it when the sun isnt’ shining.
Now, if you live in a northern latitude with snowy and/or cloudy winters, you may need to find an additional power source for the winter. Or, you may be okay achieving a “net zero” version of energy independence by overproducing during the summer and consuming grid electricity in the winter.
Why do I need battery backup to be energy independent?
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?
Well, 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.
First, connecting your solar system directly to your electrical system could result in power surges that could damage your electronics and appliances and cause your lights to flicker.
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.
Second, 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 fromresidential solar systems 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?
Absolutely not! In fact, many homes achieve energy independence and remain on-grid.
Homes that are off-grid are by definition energy independent because they have no other choice that to supply their own energy. However, it’s just as possible — and beneficial — to supply your own power while remaining connected to a local electricity grid.
In fact, it can wise to stay connected to the grid for instances when your energy production systems can’t keep with consumption. For instance, if friends coming over for a dinner party on a hot evening want to charge their electric vehicles while you’re using AC and using every appliance in the kitchen, you don’t have to worry about running out of power.
What if I don’t have battery storage?
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.
If you don’t have battery storage, you can use net metering to offset your grid usage. Are you energy independent in the strictest sense? Probably not. But there are still economic and environmental benefits to having solar without battery.
Why battery is key to an energy independent home
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.
Take a step toward energy independence
Is going solar a lost cause if you can’t become 100% energy independent? Of course not! Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.
There are countless reasons to go solar. Achieving energy independence is just one of them.