Designing an Off Grid Solar Electric System

Off grid solar systems is where I got my start in solar back in 1989 and I have literally sent systems all over the world powering all types of loads.

By definition, an off grid solar system system is powering loads that are not connected to the utility grid. In most cases the return on investment for off grid system is instant when you consider the costs of installing a new utility electric service to the load.  For example, if it costs $100,000 to install a new electrical service from the utility to the top of a mountain and a complete off grid solar electric system for that load costs $10,000 that is a huge instant savings.

A few of the more popular off grid loads include:

  • Remote cabins
  • Industrial equipment like SCADA and flow monitors
  • Sign and area  lights
  • Traffic message and arrow signs

In general these loads are typically small and not all loads are well suited for solar. For example if you are building a modern home without conservation in mind and you are not willing to live the lifestyle of having a limited supply of energy from a solar system, an off grid solution is not the right solution. But if this is a weekend getaway cabin or a hunting cabin,  you can most likely live with limitations on a power budget with no problem.

Loads that are not well suited for off grid solar electric systems might include, heaters, stoves, hot water heaters, air conditioners, and large motors. These loads can be typically too large for the solar inverter to operate and some just waste too much energy. It is much more efficient and costs less to heat with other energy sources other than electric.