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What does it mean to live off-grid?

The ability to live off-grid is a popular choice for those who wish to move away from the hustle and bustle of big city life. And, for those who’ve lived off-grid for many years, because of farming or living in a remote part of Britain, it is now becoming far easier and more fuel-efficient, making it a cost-effective option.

So, what does it mean to live off-grid?

To live off-grid means to live remotely from the support of a mains infrastructure. As such, you need standalone power, or alternative provisions to be self-sufficient, and be without the reliance on one or more public utility. Your source of power can be taken from dedicated renewables such as biomass boilers, ground and air source heat pumps or solar water heating along with surplus wind or PV electricity to complement them. According to The Energy Saving Trust; installing a more energy-efficient “off-grid” system can work out to be cheaper than connecting to the mains power. Particularly if you have incorporated a renewable energy source into your plans instead of diesel because the “topping up” of most renewable energy can be sourced naturally and free of charge until you start processing it.

Nature’s fuelling options

There are a number of options available to you when considering a renewable system, in which to create power; the most commonly used are wind, water or solar but there are others. You could look into ground or air source heat pumps, but with the ground source option, there is a process of ground testing which needs carrying out to confirm whether exceptionally deep boreholes can be drilled for this purpose. Other choices are incorporating a biomass boiler or renewable fuel (diesel) generator.

In a recent case study, we demonstrated how our client, Terry Moore, and his wife had lived on their farm in Oxfordshire for over 30 years, relying on an old generator for years. The generator was powering the batteries that were supplying their home and farm with the off-grid electricity that it needed, but to use it efficiently they had to manually switch it on and off as and when they needed it.

So, when the time came to build themselves a new house, it was evident that they needed a power system that served them 24 hrs a day without the regular manual controlling. After an initial consultation period and discussing their future needs and wants, we brought together a solution that gave them 24-hour electricity without the need for manual intervention, by using a diesel-fuelled generator to keep the batteries charged and incorporating a wind turbine to provide supplementary green energy.

In another case study, we demonstrated how one of our bespoke off-grid systems needed to pump water from a borehole and supply water to his polo, livery and stud yard in a remote part of the country. By linking 30 solar panels to a 48 battery UPS system, we enabled the farm to be fully sustainable and energy-efficient, offering them a complete solution available nowhere else.

Being cleaner like our neighbouring countries

By signing the 2015 Paris Agreement, the UK has pledged to prevent global warming and cut its emissions by 80% by 2050. For this to happen, around 75% of our electricity must come from clean sources by 2030. At the moment, according to Greenmatch, the UK have to reach a target of 15% for renewable energy consumption by 2020 (in 2015 we were at 8.2%).

Opting for off-grid power can steer people towards sustainable resources and it can be more cost-effective to get the right equipment in place than try and connect to mains. Also, the process for becoming greener and getting your systems set up can be a lot quicker than you may think – as many of our customers have discovered. But, why should you try and be greener? Well aside from the massive implications on climate control, the whole industry for manufacturing the equipment has managed to reduce the outlay costs. For photovoltaic panels alone, costs reduced by 80% between 2009 and 2015, and across Europe over one million jobs were created in 2014. Two significant effects! And, why shouldn’t we rise to the challenge of competing with our neighbouring countries to create a low carbon future? Sweden is aiming to be the world’s first fossil-free nation by 2040 and Costa Rica has produced 85% of its electricity from hydro, geothermal, solar and wind over the past four years. What’s more, last October, Scotland generated 98% of its electricity needs through wind power so we have the know-how and ability to strive ahead.

Want to find out more about our off-grid power systems? Contact us to find out more.

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