If you’ve ever considered employing a prime power generator for your home or rural institution or establishment or, if you’re living or working in an isolated area and relying on the grid for power is out of the question, then this article’s for you.

What does it mean to go “Off-the-grid”?

To go “off-grid” simply means that you are no longer connected to/relying on an electricity grid for power supply. Using an off-grid power source is very common and even necessary for those in rural locations, or anywhere where power supply companies have been unsuccessful in connecting customers to power.

Let’s talk about the types of power systems one can employ off-the-grid:

Prime Power Generators

Adopting an off-grid prime power system can be a very cost-effective option compared to extending a power line to the grid, which can cost about $15,000-$50,000 for every mile (Energy.gov). These power systems are also used by people living close to the grid but want to benefit from an independent energy source, or practice cleaner, greener energy consumption.

Stand-alone generators usually employ a combination of technologies or power sources, such as fossil fuel or hybrid generators in order to achieve maximum efficiency both performance and cost-wise.

powering off grid

Combined Heat and Power (Standby) Systems

Cogeneration engines are highly efficient and ideal for a wide range of industrial applications as they are able to provide a resilient supply of prime power, are easy to maintain and consume significantly less fuel compared to other conventional power systems. CHP systems are nearly 50% more efficient than energy from the grid.

They’re also very cost-effective. According to McKinsey & Company, an additional 50 GW of capacity (equal to around half of the current nuclear generation capacity in the U.S. alone) would be able to produce annual savings of $77 billion by the year 2020.

Choosing the Right Fuel

You can choose a generator that is powered by diesel, biodiesel, gasoline, propane or natural gas. If you’re going with gasoline, gasoline is relatively inexpensive and simple to manage, yet it is also highly flammable and prone to deterioration and clogging. Gasoline will also require storage space for fuel.

Diesel is relatively inexpensive and generally high-quality and long-lasting – however it creates higher levels of pollution, gels at colder temperatures and requires more maintenance against leakage and spills. Diesel engines are the quickest to start up and also take load.

Propane, on the other hand, is relatively safe to use and is convenient for residential spaces as they already contain an LP tank/lines. Like diesel fuel, propane is contained in a tank – so you can think similarly about propane as you would about diesel delivery.

Lastly, natural gas generators have lines connected directly to them, meaning no tank is required. This is quite a benefit as tanks can be pricey, and also need the extra space to accommodate them. Natural gas is also more environmentally friendly and not as costly compared to other fuels, and is generally capable of supplying emergency backup power for weeks to months due to its availability.

Solar Electric (PV) Systems

Renewable solar energy via solar panels contains batteries that store the sun’s energy for use whenever required. The energy can be accessed from these batteries directly, or can be passed through an inverter – which is one of the most crucial components of the solar power system. Solar inverters “invert” DC (direct current) into AC (alternating current), or, in other words, take all the electricity that’s been stored in the bank of batteries and convert it to power for appliances in residential spaces. Most power installations use just a single inverter.

There are three types of solar panels: Monocrystalline, Polycrystalline and Thin-film. They all capture and convert sunlight into electricity using a silicon-based technology. PV systems can actually provide you with green energy for 30 years or so, and over time, save you a lot more money compared to other clean energy technologies.

Off-Grid is On-the-Rise…

When it comes to choosing a reliable power source for your home or facility, there are going to be certain options that make more sense than others. Off-grid power generators make a lot of sense economically, financially and environmentally.