Living off the grid is incredibly liberating for many people who enjoy the freedom it gives them when they do not have to rely on others to sustain their lifestyle. The most important concern of every homesteader that chooses to get off the power grid is to find a way to generate their own electricity. Here are some alternative power-generating options to consider.
If you live in a place with lots of sunshine the year through, then you could utilise the enormous amount of energy provided by the sun and either use that energy directly to operate your electrical appliances, heat and cooling system, and other tools or store it. Place as many solar panels as your budget allows it on your roof (or another north-facing spot that is showered by sunlight) and watch the photon energy from the sun turn into DC voltages.
A single solar panel usually produces anywhere from 290 to 320 watts of power per hour (Wh) of full sun (about 30 kWh per month on average with a 4-hour sunlight per day) and converts more than 20% of the energy hitting it from the sun into power. A typical Australian home (a 4-member family) demands approximately 41 kWh every day. However, it is not easy to calculate how much power output you will get from solar panels as there are several factors to consider, such as the climate, location, operating temperature of the panels, the orientation of the solar panel array, tilt angle, and more. You may use online tools like LG’s solar calculator, though, to help figure out the average daily kWh hour output in your area.
Wind energy is an excellent option for areas with moderate to high winds. So, before you decide to give this a go, make sure you know the average wind speed around where you live. If all checks out well, go ahead and install a wind turbine – the bigger the turbine, the more electricity it will be able to create. To give you an idea, a 900-watt turbine can power a small house.
What you do need to be aware of, in this case, is that larger turbines require more frequent maintenance and repairs (due to moving parts). Plus, you will need to make room in your property to build towers (7ft and higher) to install the turbines. Also, don’t forget to ask the manufacturer for critical information, such as the expected yearly output of the turbine and the maximum wind speed at which the machine can operate safely.
This will obviously only work if there is a source of flowing water in your property. What needs to be done is a simple and pretty straightforward task (in theory) – find the largest vertical distance the water from the river or stream will travel and divert some (or all of) it so that it flows through a turbine. Nevertheless, when you roll up your sleeves and get down to business, you will soon realise that setting up a hydropower generator is not as easy as it sounds unless, of course, you have some engineering knowledge. If you are among the lucky ones, there are several DIY videos on YouTube that can help you build a hydropower generator from scratch. If successful, you can pat yourself on the back and enjoy the same output year round (hydropower is more continuous and stable compared to solar and wind energy).
Using a diesel generator will help you not only recharge your batteries and store energy for a rainy day but also power your house in its entirety when there is not enough renewable energy. There are many different types of diesel generators for sale, and you may rightfully wonder whether you will need a petrol- or diesel-run machine to power your house or use as an emergency backup. As a rule of thumb, petrol generators are great for providing power for small-scale projects like a camping trip. However, a diesel generator is more appropriate if you need to provide electricity to an entire house or a farm.
Pros & Cons: In general, a petrol generator has higher maintenance requirements than a diesel model. On the other hand, diesel generators are more fuel efficient.
As you can see, each system has its own limitations and prospects. To decide which one will best suit your needs, clarify your exact requirements, and then the door to self-sufficiency will be wide open!