Off-Grid or Stand-Alone Renewable Energy Systems

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Off-grid, or stand-alone, systems can be more cost-effective than connecting to the grid in remote locations. | Photo courtesy of Dave Parsons.

For many people, powering their homes or small businesses using a small renewable energy system that is not connected to the electricity grid -- called a stand-alone system -- makes economic sense and appeals to their environmental values.

In remote locations, stand-alone systems can be more cost-effective than extending a power line to the electricity grid (the cost of which can range from $15,000 to $50,000 per mile). But these systems are also used by people who live near the grid and wish to obtain independence from the power provider or demonstrate a commitment to non-polluting energy sources.

Successful stand-alone systems generally take advantage of a combination of techniques and technologies to generate reliable power, reduce costs, and minimize inconvenience. Some of these strategies include using fossil fuel or renewable hybrid systems and reducing the amount of electricity required to meet your needs.

In addition to purchasing photovoltaic panels, a wind turbine, or a small hydropower system, you will need to invest in some additional equipment (called "balance-of-system") to condition and safely transmit the electricity to the load that will use it. This equipment can include:

  • Batteries
  • Charge controller
  • Power conditioning equipment
  • Safety equipment
  • Meters and instrumentation.

See our page on balance-of-system equipment requirements for small renewable energy systemsfor more information on the additional equipment needed for stand-alone home energy systems.