Generators And Solar Power
When you are attempting to live off the grid what is the best source for you to generate your energy needs? In this article, I’m going to look at generators and solar power to compare and let you make the choice about which will serve your needs.
When you look at your choices between using a generator vs. solar energy for your power needs you have several considerations before making your choice. Let’s look at some of them:
- Cost- When looking at the cost of generators and solar power there is more to consider than just the initial cost. If you take the simple approach and only look at the initial cost the generator would win hands down. But as you look closer the solar system wins out in the cost over time category. While the initial cost of the solar cells and batteries are initially more, once the solar system is installed there are little maintenance costs or further expenses. Generators require fuel to operate. They also require regular maintenance and parts replacement as they wear out. Fuel costs alone with a generator continue to rise as with all other fuels. With a solar power system, the sun fuels the system, so there is no fuel cost associated with this type of system.
- Convenience- Although a solar power system may take a little more work to purchase and install, once installed the solar power system requires little attention from the user. Generators may be more convenient initially because of ease of installation, the generator needs constant attention to make sure it continues to provide power. The user must monitor fuel supplies, especially if it used as the main power supply. The generator must be serviced and regular maintenance such as oil changes and parts replacement must be performed. With solar power, other than occasionally replacing a battery or washing off the panels during extended dry spells to remove accumulated dust, they are almost install and forget.
- Efficiency- In the area of efficiency it appears that solar panels win by a wide margin. As solar power is received through the solar panels, the electricity generated is stored in the battery bank, to be used as needed. Once the battery bank is full the excess energy generated can be sent back into the grid and sold to the electric company. When using a generator, the generator runs constantly regardless of the energy consumption. They consume fuel regardless as long as they are running. This would seem to give the clear advantage to solar when comparing generators and solar power.
- Dependability- Some will claim that dependability is where generators come out ahead when comparing generators and solar power. Here again, this may be an oversimplification of the facts. While it is true that solar power generation stops when the sun goes down and is greatly reduced when it is cloudy for an extended period, there are issues with generators too. Generator systems depend on fuel. If the fuel supply is disrupted by storms or a disaster, a generator becomes useless. Even on a cloudy day solar panels will provide some power, only at a lower output than when in full sun.
- Environment- The ability to help the environment definitely goes to solar. In the debate over generators and solar power, this may lead those who are concerned about the environment to choose solar. Solar power has zero emissions when it is working. Solar produces no greenhouse gases. It is a totally renewable energy source that will not run out for billions of years. Generators, on the other hand, produce emissions which contribute greenhouse gases to the environment. They run on fossil fuels which will also keep getting more expensive and eventually run out.
For many people who wish to disconnect from the grid, the solution is a hybrid system. Instead of choosing between generators and solar power, many choose to install both. This gives the advantages of both systems and allows using the generator as a backup power source in times of need. For instance, if extended bad weather has decreased output and the batteries are getting low on charge, a generator can run temporarily to recharge the batteries. This system is more fuel efficient and helps decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
When looking to disconnect from the grid use these comparisons to help you make the right choice when choosing a power supply.
If you have comments or suggestions to help others please post them in the comments section.