There are two main categories of renewable energy sources – coal and nuclear plants. While these sources are both energy-intensive, it might not be the worst idea to run them off-grid. As a way to lower emissions, some energy companies are looking at off-grid power sources that don’t use traditional power supplies.
One approach is called distributed solar power – essentially, the solar panels on your roof don’t generate their own electricity. Instead, they’re connected to nearby solar plants, which then power the lights. However, most solar panels in the U.S. are still built in the west at vast factory sites that may not be able to go back.
A cheaper solution is to use the grid as an extra, off-grid energy source, similar to how we use electricity in most regions of the world. In the west, solar power plants are often owned or operated by a utility, and there’s enough electricity to power hundreds of homes.
In a recent survey, a consortium called Solara, one of the largest solar power facilities in the world, discovered that only 8% of the time, households using those plants did not even use grid power to complete their needs. More than half of the time, they actually used both grid and solar in the same order – and about 10% did it both ways for free. Other large companies like SolarReserve have been looking into using solar on-site in remote locations.
But if you live in Australia, that is no longer possible. Australia became so reliant on coal and gas to generate power, it closed the Hazelwood power station last fall. (You might be interested to know that the solar panels don’t even pay for themselves, because most of the generation comes from windpower.)
With the closure of the coal plants, Australia is looking to renewable energy sources as a alternative. Some estimates indicate that we may be close to a “peak solar-plus-grid” energy solution, where we will need 100% renewables to generate power, but have access to fossil fuels for off-grid solutions.
With the rise of fracking in Texas, and California cutting back on renewable energy, more and more people are looking toward off-grid solutions. SolarCity recently announced that it is expanding its energy storage product to residential customers; Tesla is working on off-grid vehicles; and rooftop solar companies like SolarCity are trying to make solar-powered lights to go off-grid.
What other options
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