Most people picture off-grid systems as technology designed for the naturalist recluse living in the woods – but in some cases, an off-grid solar electric system may be a reasonable solution for a business.
The case for an off-grid business
An off-grid business requires a power inverter but does not necessarily require batteries, and may potentially have a larger roof area than a home. The business may not be able to afford the commercial costs of building a large solar array. However, if the business can afford an off-grid system, they can afford to install a battery bank, increasing their chances of avoiding peak electricity costs and therefore, avoiding the peak usage of the grid.
For many areas, the off-grid solar systems are more economical than on-grid systems. Off-grid solar systems are more expensive than on-grid systems, due to the cost of batteries and inverters, but the cost of grid power is avoided in some areas. The amount of sunlight is such that the on-grid solar system must be supplemented by batteries in order to avoid blacked-out electricity. In some areas, the sun shines most of the day, which avoids electricity blackouts. In these areas, the on-grid solar system can be off-grid. If it is needed more than half the time, it must be on-grid.
Battery backup and inverter solutions
An off-grid solar electric system requires some battery backup, because solar energy cannot be stored when the sun is not shining. Some business owners do not want to rely solely on the grid, because they fear blackouts. It may be a good solution for them, but business owners in other situations may require batteries and/or grid-tie inverters to avoid peak energy charges.
Off-grid solar energy cannot be fed back into the grid, because there is no grid. Some think that they can use their own batteries to feed back-power into the grid, but this is not practical, as these batteries would almost certainly be full.
Many businesses are concerned about their carbon footprint and want to mitigate their carbon footprint. In this case, they may find that off-grid solar energy may be a better alternative than grid-tie inverters, which require a great deal of maintenance and may require an energy back-up.
Off-grid vs on-grid solar systems
Businesses with large roofs require an array of solar panels. The size of the solar panels is not as important as the layout, as long as it matches the roof area.
When installing solar energy systems, it may be useful to have an electrician perform a wind evaluation, to ensure that the wind speed meets the system specifications. This wind evaluation check can be easily done, at the installer, before installation. However, many businesses find it easier to purchase some reference wind meters, so that they can get an idea of the wind speed, where they are located, and compare this to their system specifications. This will help them to choose a better location for their solar energy systems.
In many cases, solar energy installations are very cost-effective. Therefore, many business owners prefer to go with this option, than pay for an expensive grid-tie inverter or other extra equipment. In addition, it is quite easy to install the system, as long as there is enough space available.
When the lights go out
However, it is important to consider the fact that the panels will not provide 100% of the electricity needed during a blackout, for about 10 or 15 minutes. Therefore, when the grid goes down, many business owners have to resort to burning more fossil fuels, or using the emergency generator.
Grid-tie inverters can also be used in very unusual places, as they are compatible with most types of electrical equipment, and they can even be used as a stand-alone system.
However, it is important to get the best possible inverter for your business location and needs, because they can vary slightly in their functionality and performance. It is important to consider such factors, when selecting the best solar energy inverter for your business.
Solar energy is very clean, and is also very safe. Hence, it is very important to ensure that your business’s safety and health is protected when the business uses solar energy.