Date of installation: 2002
Type of System: Off-grid, roof mounted, 3 KW
Storage: Lead acid cell batteries
Home: 4000 square foot primary residence at 8500 feet in Park County, Colorado.
This system was installed on a shed on the property before construction of the home and used by contractors to build the house. Innovative Energy was tasked with keeping the system running while teaching other contractors how to access the power.
The technology behind solar panels and all of the components of a solar installation is rapidly changing and improving. The basics, however, remain the same. Solar energy from the sun is harnessed by photovoltaic cells in the panels and produces direct current (DC) electricity. This current is directed to an inverter, where it is converted to
alternating current (AC) for use within the property.
Current technology allows for monitoring of the system from an off-site, internet based location, providing the owner with the ability to monitor and marvel at the amount of power they are producing. Individual mico-inverters attached to each panel can provide this information by panel, and by hour, to satisfy the geeky side of every customer.
Once completed, the owners lived in the home for nearly 11 years, running a home office from their location as well. In 2013, the utility grid had installed lines close enough to the home to allow the owners to connect to it for less than the cost of replacing their batteries. Innovative Energy traded out their off-grid equipment for grid-tied items, assisted with getting their system approved for conncection by the local utility, and made sure they were once again up and running. Currenty this home produces most of the electricity that the owners use, with the added benefit of being able to sell any excess back to the utility.
Off-grid solar installations serve as an alternative to generators for providing electrical power to locations where the cost to bring in "the grid" is prohibitive. These installations function as the main power source, and are generally accompanied by some type of energy storage.
Grid Tied Solar
Grid-tied systems may also be eligible for rebates and incentives from the utility they are tied to. The system should be designed to take advantage of the space available to offset as much of the customer's usage as possible.
It is important to note that grid-tied systems will not operate when the grid is down. This is a safety measure required by codes, but can be bypassed by adding energy storage to the system.
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Energy storage from solar production is stored in batteries for consumption when needed. There are many types of batteries, from the old standby lead acid ones to newer versions such as the Tesla products. The amount of time that a customer is available to tend to the storage, coupled with the cost,
generally becomes the determining factor in the type of battery used. Grid-tied systems that also use batteries essentially have two backups in case of solar down time. They also have the ability to use their batteries when the grid is down., giving them more options than a simple grid-tied system. Systems can be designed to have battery backup for only essential loads, such as medical equipment, to help eliminate worries.
Power in off-grid situations can be provided by solar in ways similar to those of grid-tied locations, but are most commonly on a roof or a pole . The energy is stored in batteries to provide for times when the system is not producing power such as at night.
Off-grid systems can also be installed in locations where the owner simply does not want to connect to the grid.
Off Grid Solar
Grid-tied solar installations produce their own power, but are also connected to the main utility provider. This allows the location to use the utility as a back-up for times when their solar may not produce enough power. .These installations can be placed on a roof, mounted on poles nearby, or on any number of other innovative locations.