Solar panel systems are used to generate power by converting the sun’s rays into usable energy via the use of photovoltaic cells. A solar power system consists of multiple basic components and some parts that can be removed or added, depending on the type of solar system.
Solar panel systems can generate power only where sunlight is available and accessible. Industrial and commercial buildings that can access grid power at significant rates from power utilities are now exploring alternative energy sources that are cleaner, more sustainable, and renewable to balance the cost.
Sun panel farm outdoor.
Still, a prevalent dilemma is connecting to an on-grid or an off-grid solar energy system. If you’re planning to install a solar energy system in your office or home, it’s important to determine which of the two: on-grid or off-grid solar panel system is worth choosing.
The on-grid system is a type where the solar energy system is linked to the utility’s power grid. The surplus energy produced is then sent to the utility grid, and the consumer will be compensated for it.
Likewise, when the solar power system generates less energy, the consumer can draw the electricity from the grid and pay for the units they consume. Being tied to a grid can have numerous advantages.
Consumers don’t need to purchase a costly battery backup for storing surplus energy, making on-grid systems more widespread in residential areas. Even companies use on-grid solar power systems to fulfill their daily needs and earn income from the surplus energy produced.
Still, being connected to the grid indicates users might have to experience power outages. Once they know how to connect on grid solar system, users can take advantage of the net metering system and use it for their on-grid systems.
Off-grid solar signifies the solar panel system works independently, and the consumer isn’t directly linked to the utility’s power system. This particular solar panel system utilizes batteries for storing the solar energy produced.
Even though the best off-grid solar system is self-sustainable, it entails significantly higher costs as users need to invest in additional items such as a grid box, battery pack, mounting structure, solar panels, charge controller, inverter, and balance of systems.
The solar panels produce and store energy during the day and utilize it at night. Off-grid systems are best suited for places that experience recurrent power outages. An off-grid system can aid in sustainable and independent electricity production in remote and rural locations.
To help you make the best choice, here’s a brief overview of the primary differences between the two solar panel systems regarding energy storage, cost, and reliability.
The primary difference between on-grid and off-grid systems is the way in which they use and store power. As previously mentioned, on-grid solar panel systems are linked to the traditional power grid and don’t call for power storage since the surplus power can be sold back to the grid.
An on-grid system can also generate more electricity than you need, just like an off-grid system. The surplus electricity in an on-grid system will be delivered to the grid. If there’s no meter linked to the point delivering to the grid, then the surplus energy will be unaccounted for.
Luckily, the majority of on-grid systems are equipped with a net meter to account for the surplus of electricity. You can apply for a net meter via an application, and in return, will add credits for your surplus power. Instead of paying, you can also use these credits when using electricity from the grid and save substantial money.
On the other hand, off-grid solar panel systems are explicitly self-sufficient and store power in batteries for later use when the sun is not shining.
There are instances when the solar panel system might generate more power than required depending on the system usage, size, and weather events.
Excess electricity can also be generated if your solar panel system is massive enough and you have minimal use for it. In addition, batteries are linked to the solar panel system in an off-grid system, allowing for surplus power storage.
This surplus energy can be utilized to power your home during a power outage, at night, or when the weather is gloomy or cloudy, and the system isn’t generating enough power.
You must have ample electricity storage to cater to all your power requirements. As a result, you need a large battery bank. This tends to make an off-grid solar power project way more costly, exceeding your budget.
The enormous battery backup can be costly for sufficing energy requirements when the solar system isn’t generating electricity, boosting the upfront costs. Luckily, on-grid systems are beneficial as they don’t need extra batteries to store electricity.
They use electricity the utility generates when the system is malfunctioning or not generating enough energy. This indicates your electricity needs will be satisfied without costing you a significant number of batteries.
In general, on-grid solar panel systems are more affordable since they don’t need power storage, batteries, or any other special equipment. It’s linked to the grid, indicating the system utilizes specific services such as distribution and transmission lines.
On-grid systems will be charged for these. In addition, you must pay a fixed fee to get connected to the grid. Besides these service fees, you might also notice yourself being charged for the electricity consumed from the grid. This typically occurs when there’s no credit left for covering up the energy consumed.
For homes that are in proximity to an already existing grid, on-grid solar systems remain the most cost-effective and prevalent choice. Moreover, the surplus power supply can easily be sold back to the grid, which can further help balance the initial solar power system installation cost.
Despite not receiving any electricity bill, off-grid solar panel systems tend to cost higher than on-grid solar panel systems. This is mainly on account of the extra components needed, such as charge controllers and batteries.
As the name suggests, an off-grid system isn’t linked to the grid, so it is an absolute necessity to have battery storage in these systems. As a result, it doesn’t utilize any electricity generated by it or use its services.
The off-grid solar panel system is designed to fulfill all your power needs and where it’s installed. For this, it requires the use of off-grid inverters and significant battery storage capacity, which are quite expensive.
If you prefer breaking off ties with your local utility company, or if your office or home is in a remote or isolated place, the best option is to go forth with an off-grid solar system.
They’re best suited for communication towers, army camps, mining areas, remote rural areas, street lighting, remote farms, highway motels, etc. They’re also prevalently used by caravans and RVs to run their appliances and electronics.
The advantage of using off-grid systems is that they allow you to enjoy an uninterrupted electricity supply even during power failures, provided you have ample battery backup.
Due to the inevitability of a battery storage system or a backup generator, an off-grid solar panel system tends to cost more and involve more than its counterpart.
Finally, an off-grid system tends to be more reliable than its significant counterpart is, since it is not subject to power disruptions or outages from the traditional utility grid.
Despite this, it’s essential to understand that off-grid systems call for careful and vigilant monitoring and maintenance to make sure the batteries remain charged at all times and are functioning on point.
On-grid systems, on the other hand, tend to rely more significantly on the traditional power grid. As a result, with an on-grid system, you’re more prone to fluctuations in electricity prices and power outages.
Still, this doesn’t go to say that on-grid systems cannot be reliable. Instead, these systems are designed with backup energy systems to provide reliability should there be power outages.
When choosing which kind of solar power system is ideal for you, you should take your specific circumstances and needs into consideration.
For instance, if you reside in a place with frequent power shortages, it’s best to use an off-grid system to ensure a reliable energy source. However, if you want to minimize your carbon footprint to some extent and save money on your energy, an on-grid solar system is a perfect choice.
You should choose off-grid systems because they make you independent of the grid and self-reliant. Moreover, it is the best way to prevent power outages due to electrical shutdowns or failures.
Similarly, on-grid systems offer businesses and homeowners the chance to earn passive income from the excess electricity these systems produce. In addition, they’re also cost-effective and relatively easy to install.