It wasn’t long ago that mentioning going off-grid was met with derision and contemptuous snorts of ‘prepper’ or ‘conspiracy theorist’. Thankfully, things have changed drastically since then and off-grid power generation is one of the hottest topics around.
The energy price is rising steadily. There is also an awareness of the environmental cost of generating energy from fossil fuels. These developments have certainly made off-grid solar systems sidestep all those prejudices. Today, off-grid power is one of the best ways to generate clean, green energy on a small scale.
DIY Off-Grid Power Systems
Are you excited about generating your own energy? Then, one of the first concepts you’re going to have to get to grips with is using the right off-grid power system type in the right situation.
This page provides a quick overview of the different solar system types in the UK and the situations for which they are best suited. A typical off-grid solar system contains;
- Solar panels to generate energy.
- An energy inverter to convert that energy from DC to AC current.
- Batteries to store that energy.
- A controller or monitor to manage and maintain the system.
- Cables, fittings and fixings to make it all work with the grid.
How these components are connected together decides what type of energy you generate and how effective the system is. Building the right system for the right conditions is essential to make off-grid power work.
In all situations, solar panels generate energy. In an off-grid solar system, a charge controller manages the energy and the batteries store it for future consumption. Clearly, a charge controller refines the voltage to ensure the batteries stay charged safely and not overcharge or discharge.
A charge controller then typically connects to a fuse box and then to the grid. In the context of off-grid power systems, when we say grid, we mean the property, vehicle, boat, or whatever you are building the off-grid solar system to power.
Batteries typically run at 12V but it is easy to pair to provide a 24V feed for larger installations.
Finally, a solar inverter is essential to convert the stored DC power from the batteries to AC power for the grid. Most appliances can only use AC current so an inverter is necessary for situations where you require power for household appliances.
Types of Off-Grid Solar Systems
The main off-grid power systems types in the UK include:
- DC Solar Systems.
- AC Solar Systems
- DC and AC Solar Systems.
- AC Hybrid Wind and Solar Systems.
- AC Solar System with Generator Backup
1. DC Solar Systems
We start with the DC-based solar systems. The DC solar systems run at either 12v or 24v, which is influenced by the battery setup you use. DC systems are ideal for use in smaller installations that require lower voltages for light bulbs or other low energy requirements.
A DC solar system will use the solar panel to generate energy, a charge controller to charge the batteries and connections to provide power. Energy will be fed directly from the batteries via a fuse box to your local grid.
DC-only systems do not have generators for backup and generally charge the batteries directly. They are often used in smaller setups with low demand for power such as vehicles, boats, caravans, and huts.
2. AC Solar Systems
AC solar systems will generate energy in the same way a DC system does but will use an energy inverter to convert the battery’s DC power to AC ready for use.
The solar panels will generate energy and pass it through a charge controller to the batteries. A charge inverter will sit between the batteries and the local grid to deliver AC power directly.
As many appliances and homes can only use AC power, this is a popular system to use in holiday homes, cabins, and other habitable off-grid situations.
3. DC and AC Solar Systems
These DC and AC solar systems are cool hybrid power solutions as they mix the two main off-grid system types.
Here solar panels generate the power and feed to the charge controller and then to the battery packs. With the help of a fuse box, you can feed the DC power directly to the grid to power up DC items. A second feed comes from the batteries to an energy inverter to provide AC current to appliances.
This hybrid system delivers both direct DC and AC current to appliances and properties that use AC power. It is an ideal system for use in many situations such as holiday homes, outbuildings, remote offices, and cabins.
4. Hybrid Wind and Solar System
AC hybrid wind and solar systems use two renewable sources to provide more reliable energy generation. It uses a solar panel array as one energy input and a wind turbine as a second. This delivers reliable energy even in low light conditions or when the wind is too light to drive the turbine.
Both the solar panels and the wind turbine have their own controller to feed the batteries. The batteries will then connect to the grid via an inverter to provide usable energy.
This is a more expensive green energy system but spreads the load between sunlight and wind. This can offer much wider generation potential in some environments, especially places like the UK with less than reliable weather conditions.
Hybrid systems are often used in cabins, remote offices, outbuildings, and situations where the weather is changeable but you still need to generate green energy.
5. AC Solar Systems with Backup
Here is the final type of off-grid solar systems.
The AC solar systems with the backup will use the same arrangement as an AC solar system but will use a generator for power when the solar panels cannot generate enough energy.
AC solar systems with backup generate energy from PV panels using a charge controller to feed the batteries and connect to the property using an inverter. Obviously, the generator is an emergency backup here.
Well, in low light conditions and inclement weather, these types of off-grid solar systems will be helpful to provide power to the grid. Generators are available in a range of sizes and configurations and can be powered by petrol, diesel or LPG.
AC solar systems with generator backup are mainly used in off-grid situations where energy requirements are constant but sunlight is variable. That includes remote offices, holiday homes, or outbuildings.
One of the great things about off-grid solar systems is their flexibility. You can configure a solution to fit your specific requirement and combine technologies to cover most demands and most outcomes. All while generating clean, green energy.
Several brands offer ready-to-use off-grid solar power systems in the UK and across the world. So, it is easy for a buyer to find one and put together the components in a matter of time. You don’t necessarily be an expert technician to deal with all the types of off-grid solar panel kits.
No wonder they are so popular!