Microgrid, Off-grid

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“The future depends on what you do today.” Mahatma Gandhi

What do I have to do to be 100% off-grid?

We are asked this question at least once a week. Indeed, when electricity prices go up yet again, we are asked it at least once a day.  And it’s a fair dream to have…

The answer is that you need a renewable energy source (solar, wind, or both), a battery system, and, realistically, a back-up generator.  Why do you need a back-up generator? Because the wind blows intermittently and the sun shines only in the day, and only for a few hours in winter, without a generator you would need significantly to over-size your renewable energy system to cover the ‘worst case’ weather conditions. And this would mean that it had to be powered down during the best weather, such that some of the generation was wasted.

In reality, for most people in the UK, whilst off-grid may be the ultimate dream, there is actually no point in going off-grid. It is better to stay connected to the grid (which acts like the back-up generator in an off-grid system), but minimise the use of the grid by installing solar PV and battery storage.  We can optimise the size of the PV system and the battery storage system, based on your load.

However, if you are in a position where a grid connection is not possible, then we are experts in sizing and optimising off-grid systems.  We can model your load, model the output of the renewable energy system and optimise the system design taking into account your budget and other requirements.  Please get in touch if you would like us to assist.

What about a microgrid?

A microgrid is a private system combining renewable energy generation and privately owned wires to distribute electricity to a number of consumers and / or businesses.  A true microgrid is one which can operate connected to the main grid (the National Grid) as well as in ‘islanded mode’, disconnected from the main grid.

It is possible to have a microgrid which is autonomous and does not operate connected to the grid. In this case, as with an off-grid system for a single property, it will need some sort of back-up generator.

In general, microgrids are conceived during the planning stages of a new housing or industrial estate.  Retro-fitting a microgrid to substantially replace existing grid connections is unlikely to be cost effective, since it requires the duplication of the wiring currently running between the local substation and each grid connection.

If you are contemplating installing a microgrid in a new housing or industrial estate, there are various regulatory hurdles to overcome, not least because supplying electricity requires a licence unless an exemption can be obtained, and all properties will need to be metered. 

We can assist with this process.  Please get in touch if you would like to discuss further.

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