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On Grid vs Off Grid – which one is better?

Energy Sector

Planning to install a solar energy system at your home or business but getting confused between off-grid versus on-grid solar systems? For making the right choice, we need to understand the key differences between off-grid and on-grid solar systems.

On-grid solar systems generate power only when the utility power grid is available and directly connected to the utility feed. On-grid systems send excess power generated to the utility grid when you are overproducing.  These are the most cost-effective and simplest systems to install. Such systems will pay for themselves by offsetting the bills in 3-8 years. On-grid systems can either be put into place with or without net metering.

In the case of an on-grid system with net metering, while calculating the monthly bill, the solar power fed to the grid is netted at the same tariff at which the grid power is sold to the consumer. In the case of systems without net metering, the rate at which solar power fed is credited can be different from the normal utility tariff. The biggest downfall of an on-grid system is that it does not provide power during a grid outage.

Off-grid systems allow you to store and save your solar power in batteries for use when the power grid goes down. It is meant to be entirely self-sustaining. The best part about off-grid solar plants is that they provide power for critical loads when the power grid is down.

The biggest downside for off-grid systems is that they cannot cater to the power demand of all your loads since the cost and volume of batteries would be prohibitive. Such systems require a lot more specialized equipment to function. These systems are not only costly and complex to install but are also not very environment-friendly.

Another major con of an off-grid system is that one cannot completely rely on the power company as backup. So, before you make your choice, make sure you consider whether your property can sustain itself without power at certain intervals.

The main point boils down to the fact that off-grid systems are not recommended for the average homeowners. They are neither cost-effective nor easily installable and manageable. One will have to pay 3-4 times the cost of a grid-tied system for a similar off-grid system with suitable battery power for your needs.

Most of the solar developers recommend installing an on-grid solar system and invest in a backup DG if required. Nevertheless, in the case of remote areas where the grid is unavailable or unreliable, the off-grid system might seem an appropriate alternative. Amplus Solar plant at Hilton Resort, Lonavala is an off-grid PV Plant.

With the onset of policies such as net metering and open access, on-grid solar projects are on a boom in India. However, take a close look at the pros and cons mentioned above to make the right choice. Tying up the grid with your renewable energy will not only benefit you but also the environment and the community.

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