In our basement is a desktop computer; currently collecting dust as it is seldom used.
My 8 year old son, recently inquired about this ‘technology box’. In all honestly, I was quite perplexed by this question as I had NO IDEA to what he was referring to.
Having grown up in a world of hand-helds, my son was unfamiliar with the highly immobile ways of desktop computing.
Feeling nostalgic, I turned it on for him. He immediately began jabbing at the monitor, and was soon frustrated as it ‘wasn’t working’.
This had me laughing. But after a brief introduction to the mouse, he was soon enjoying the very large screen area.
This experience made me realize something.
When a very large portion of any group does things the same way, it can be difficult to understand the process of the few.
And this applies to solar power.
With the overwhelming majority of solar arrays being connected to the grid, understanding off-grid power can be difficult as it is so rarely encountered.
So for the sake of clarity, the difference between On-Grid and Off-Grid power is that On-Grid power is connected to the electric utility and Off-Grid power is not.
In other words, On-Grid (a.k.a. grid-tied) means that you have some sort of physical connection to the power grid (think power lines). Off-grid means that you are completely detached from any infrastructure provided by the utility.
To make an analogy, think of the electric plug for those ‘technology boxes.’ You are either ‘plugged in’ or ‘unplugged’ from the electric company.
On-Grid Solar Power
On-Grid (Grid-Tied) Solar Power is an amazing thing. It allows you to utilize solar energy when the conditions are good, while still having the convenience of seemingly unlimited power when skies are cloudy.
Grid-Tied Solar is also generally less expensive to install and, should your home perform at Net Zero, could allow you to avoid monthly utility bills.
Consequently, it should come as no surprise that so many solar fans choose this route.
However, there are a few drawbacks to being tied to the grid.
First, in the event of a power outage, your panels will be disconnected. This means that you will be sitting in the dark, despite the fact that your panels have the ability to produce power.
Obviously, this can be very frustrating, but is necessary to protect utility workers as they endeavor to restore power for the entire grid.
Second, as you are connected to the grid and are, in fact, utilizing the infrastructure of the electric company, then you are beholden to the management of that particular company. And should it be decided that your solar array is a detriment to the utility as a whole, then management has the right to ask you to disconnect your panels.
At which point, you could find that your investment was for naught.
### Important Note ###
With regards to power outages, On-Grid Solar Power, if designed properly, can work in conjunction with whole house batteries and backup generators. In this case, your home would retain power in the event of a short-term power outage, while still being disconnected from the grid.
Off-Grid Solar Power
Off-Grid Solar Power means that you are completely isolated from any infrastructure provided by the electric company. Generally, this means more of an investment up-front and, until recently, meant using a lot less electricity than a conventional home.
But even with both of these drawbacks, there can be a very ‘freeing’ sense of independence when you are able to generate 100% of your own power.
Threats to the grid such as hackers, severe weather, ect. don’t usually apply to you as you are not connected to the grid and therefore are not dependent on anyone/anything else.
However, this also means that if something goes wrong, you do not have the support staff of the electric company to help you resolve things… it’s all on you.
Which Is The Best?
As someone who has lived ‘unplugged’ with Off-Grid Power since 2015, I may have a little bias in one particular direction. But as to which one is actually better… that depends entirely on you.
If you want to follow your convictions regarding renewable energy but would prefer the convenience of seemingly unlimited power, then On-Grid (Grid-Tied) Solar Power would probably be the best fit.
If you are the type of person who likes to take charge and dive in when problems present themselves, or if you are the type of person who likes to be prepared in every situation, then Off-Grid Power is the ideal choice for you.
Either choice involves producing energy from the sun, instead of polluting our air, water and land. And in that regard, they’re both winners in my book!