The most popular way of generating our own electricity is to go solar. The good news is that the cost of solar PV panels has dropped significantly in recent years, thanks to the quantities that are manufactured today. Unfortunately, you need more than just the panels to run your solar system.
In order to get to the point where you attain the 230v that we normally use, you will need a basic PV electric system.
A Solar PV System is made up of photovoltaic panels, a solar controller, batteries and an inverter. The size of each component depends not only on how much power you need, but also how much back-up time is required.
Unfortunately, there can be quite large cost variances, depending on the size of each of the different elements.
Multi-functional inverters include built in MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) solar controllers. This is a great option to save costs, because it means you will not need to purchase a separate solar controller.
Batteries are one of the more costly elements making up the system. However, they are also the most important items to consider if you are serious about investing in an off-grid system. While Lead Acid batteries are often used to save budget, if you do the sums, you’ll find that Lithium Ion batteries are actually more economical in the long term.
Li ion batteries have the capacity for 10 000 cycles and can be discharged to 90% of their capacity without any damage being incurred.
Lead Acid batteries can vary between 250 – 2000 cycles, depending on the amount of lead that is used and their lifespan depends on how much energy you use. You will therefore need to look at increasing the size of your Lead Acid battery bank if you want to run them for longer. Charging these batteries can be difficult, as they undergo three different charging stages. In addition, they need to be fully charged at the end of each day, as their lifespan will be shortened if they are not fully charged on a frequent basis.
Just remember that while the initial costs to go off the grid can be disconcerting, it is really rewarding when the sun is shining and you know that your PV panels are generating electricity and your solar collector is heating your water so that you can have a hot shower in the evening!