The Pathway to Energy Independence

June 28, 2021 6:44 pm
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“What are you hoping to achieve with solar energy?”

That’s one of the first questions we ask our customers when they come to us to start learning about solar energy. Often their responses reveal that they aren’t sure what solar can do for them, that’s where we come in. Just as often though, they say they’re looking for energy independence, but they aren’t sure what that means or if solar is the right place to start. The answer? A slightly complicated, but definitive yes. Here’s how:

The vast majority of home solar installs in Wisconsin will be grid-tied PV systems. This means that their home is still connected to the energy grid and draws electricity from their utility when their panels are not covering their needs. It also means that they are selling their excess energy back to the utilities. This process, called net metering, is explained in this article. What is important here is that while being tied to the grid may not seem like a step in the direction of independence, it represents a big change in your relationship to the grid and your reliance on the utility company.

With a grid-tied system that has been designed correctly, you will be able to provide a significant portion of your energy needs yourself, only drawing from the grid when you need it, like at night. You have now become an energy producer with your solar panels, giving you the ability to provide for yourself rather than only consuming from the utilities. However, with a grid-tied system when the grid goes down, so does your solar system. So what’s the next step toward true energy independence? Batteries and energy storage.

 

 

 

The technology for energy storage has come a long way and there is still a lot of confusion about what batteries can do for you in terms of energy independence. Talking about batteries immediately brings to mind ideas of off-grid cabins in the Northwoods but their best use right now is a lot closer to home than you might think. In fact, one of the best examples of how battery backup systems work in Wisconsin happened in the North Shore area of Milwaukee. Whitefish Bay experienced one of its first power outages in 30 years just two weeks after completing a battery storage install for a customer. With their solar and batteries up and running, our customer was able to be the only house in his neighborhood with the lights on after the grid went down.
That’s what solar + energy storage can do; provide your home with resiliency to grid outages by having your own renewable micro-grid to fall back on. Many homeowners have gas-powered generators for events such as this, but in that case, you are essentially just trading the electric grid for a gasoline grid; if the pumps aren’t running you are out of luck. With a battery backup system, you can have an entirely renewable energy source to draw from in the event of outages, storms, utility maintenance, or other unexpected events. For many homeowners in rural Wisconsin where outages are more frequent, this can mean the difference between a flooded basement and a dry one during an outage due to a severe storm.

So if grid-tied solar gives you the ability to produce your own energy, and solar with energy storage gives you the ability to store and use that energy in the event of a grid outage, what is the final step toward true energy independence? Many would say that it is living completely off the grid. This is not only expensive but requires a level of attention to energy use and system maintenance that is more of a way of life than an energy solution. With the current technology available the best path to energy independence is combining electricity mindfulness with grid-tied solar and energy storage. What this means is being aware of how much energy your daily or essential activities require, then matching those needs with a solar and battery system that would cover you in the event the grid goes down. This path looks different for every home and often involves energy conservation measures to cut down how much solar and storage you might need.

To go down this path to energy independence, just tell your solar experts that you want your system sized for a full home backup rather than optimal energy offset. That means your system will be designed with the priority of covering your energy usage in the event of a longer-term grid outage rather than saving money and keeping the fridge on for a few hours without power. With every situation being different, this path needs to be evaluated by an expert and tailored to your situation and priorities.  The wonderful thing about solar and energy storage is that now you have options and the utilities are no longer your only choice. You can declare your energy independence to whatever degree you chose, and your energy experts at Arch Electric are here to help.

Contact our experts today to determine if solar and/or battery storage is right for you! In the meantime, head on over to our Energy Storage page to learn even more!

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