The Don Rowe Blog

Apr 28

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Off-Grid Inverters—Making Their Mark

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It might be a surprise for many to learn that off-grid inverters comprise a very established market for many households and communities across America.   ‘Off-grid’ refers to being independent of the national electrical grid.  Off-grid systems can be either stand-alone systems or mini-grids which usually provide a smaller community with electricity.   Truly ‘off-grid’ means not requiring electricity, water, sewer, natural gas, heat and other services from utility companies.  To achieve this independence, one’s electricity needs to be on-site and powered by renewable energy sources, such as the sun.  In addition, other equipment, such as off-grid power inverters, must be available to convert the sun’s energy into useable AC, or alternating current, so everyday appliances and gadgets can be powered to operate successfully.  With all that being said, however, off-grid living doesn’t just apply to remote areas of the wilderness.

Off-grid Living Is On The Rise:

Stereotypically speaking, off-grid inverters have a reputation for being designed mostly, or solely, for those living entirely off the utility grid.  In reality, off-grid inverters are becoming increasingly popular with every-day families who have noticed that power outages are becoming more and more frequent, in addition to those outages lasting way longer than what most people feel comfortable with.   Far-sighted individuals realize that anyone, including themselves, can become a victim of a prolonged power outage; and that can be very scary for a lot of people for a lot of reasons.   For example, losing power for life-saving, home medical equipment such as oxygen concentrators and CPAP machines, losing heat in the dead of winter or losing air conditioning during scorching heat waves are big concerns for a lot of people.

In light of Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath in October of 2012, where thousands of people were without utilities for months on end, consumers are taking, very seriously, establishing seamless back-up power that off-grid inverters can provide by converting stored energy for common household use.

Photovoltaic inverters were previously used in grid-tie applications, only; but all that has changed!  PV inverters are forging ahead with applications that fully embrace off-grid systems, which minimize the use of diesel generators.

Big Changes In Off-Grid Solar:

The biggest change in off-grid solar incorporates what is termed, ‘AC Coupling’.   What AC Coupling does is allow new or existing grid-tie installations to add battery back-up.   In turn, this adds more of a demand for off-grid inverters and batteries.  Energy storage is a monumental part of the smart grid; and AC Coupling is an important element concerning energy storage.

Advances don’t end with AC Coupling, however.  Today’s off-grid inverters are becoming multi-taskers instead of single-task application inverters.   The next generation of ‘smarter’, more technologically-advanced inverters will perform a host of specialized duties and will offer:  1) generator and battery-bank management 2) grid or generator support 3) energy-offset functionality 4) load management and 5) help to create a renewable energy micro-grid to ensure greater reliability and stability for already-existing grids—wow!

The Future Looks Promising:

Specialists in the field of off-grid inverters are convinced that impressive hybrid inverters will be fully designed and created to offer off-grid independence with grid-tied savings.  Advances in technologies, such as AC Coupling, will result in more grid-tied system owners who can add off-grid features and performance to existing systems that will result in the best of both worlds.  Right now, the state of the solar industry in the U.S. is strong; and off-grid installations are taking place, fast and furious.   Innovations are emerging, hand over fist, in every facet of the solar power industry.  As of 2010, it was estimated that about 200,000 American families were incorporating off-grid systems, whether in remote areas or in neighborhoods just like yours and mine.

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