Small Wind Guidebook/Can I Go Off-Grid
Can I Go “Off-Grid”?
Hybrid wind energy systems can provide reliable off-grid power for homes, farms, or even entire communities (a co-housing project, for example) that are far from the nearest utility lines. According to many renewable energy experts, a “hybrid” system that combines wind and photovoltaic (PV) technologies offers several advantages over either single system. In much of the United States, wind speeds are low in the summer when the sun shines brightest and longest. The wind is strong in the winter when less sunlight is available and may be stronger at night compared to the day. Because the peak operating times for wind and PV occur at different times of the day and year, hybrid systems are more likely to produce power when you need it. (For more information on solar electric or PV systems, visit the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Information Portal).
For the times when neither the wind turbine nor the PV modules are producing, most hybrid systems provide power through batteries and/or an engine-generator powered by conventional fuels such as diesel. If the batteries run low, the engine-generator can provide power and recharge the batteries. Adding an engine-generator makes the system more complex, but modern electronic controllers can operate these systems automatically. An engine-generator can also reduce the size of the other components needed for the system. Keep in mind that the storage capacity must be large enough to supply electrical needs during non-charging periods. Battery banks are typically sized to supply the electric load for 1 to 3 days.
An off-grid hybrid system may be practical for you if:
- You live in an area with an average annual wind speed of at least 9 mph (4 m/s).
- A grid connection is not available or can only be made through an expensive extension. The cost of running a power line to a remote site to connect with the utility grid can be prohibitive, ranging from $15,000 to more than $50,000 per mile, depending on terrain.
- You would like to gain energy independence from the utility.
- You would like to generate clean power.