Going off grid just got cheaper and easier!

Being energy independent just became well within the reach of the average homeowner. In the past it may have involved a combination of a wind turbine, solar panels, storage batteries, inverter and a propane or diesel generator. It was the kind of thing you had to be extremely serious about and seriously well financed to boot. Typically far outside the sphere of consideration for the average urban or sub-urban dweller.

The sleek and sexy “Powerwall” Home Battery from Tesla is more than just a game changer. It re-invents the game and stacks the deck in your favor! Combined with solar panels and judicious energy management it can store enough energy during the daylight hours to power your entire household during the hours of no sun. That’s considered a Net Zero energy rating when you’re still hooked up to the grid. You’re now in a state of harmonious balance with your utility company. They’re handy when you need them during peak demand hours and you can express your gratitude with a heart-felt “you guys rock” but put your checkbook away since you’re……Net Zero Baby!! You produce as much energy as you consume and you gotta feel proud about that.

I guess I should mention it’s only about $3500 for the 10 kWh unit but that doesn’t include an inverter, installation or the secondary electrical panel for backup.  It’s a relatively simple installation and Solar City has a 9 year lease program for $5,000 that includes installation, an inverter (not always needed since your solar system may already have one), a maintenance plan and control systems.  You can also buy the whole shootin match for a little over $7,000.

The thing is almost too pretty to put in the garage but I’m sure I could get used to it. It can also be mounted on an exterior wall. It doesn’t take up much space either so it’s very unobtrusive. At a little less than 3 ft. wide, a bit more than 4 ft. tall and about 7 inches thick it weighs in at 220 pounds. As many as 9 units could potentially be linked together to meet any level of energy demand.

The Powerwall offers an optional “backup feature” that involves a secondary electrical panel for critical appliances and outlets you want to back up. A switch will automatically activate the backup panel and keep your solar producing in the event of a power company outage. That’s real “peace of mind” and while not exactly cheap, the alternatives involve much more expense, maintenance, noise and exhaust fumes.

So, how about going off grid? In my mind it just got infinitely more doable, practical and affordable. This is especially true for anyone contemplating building on land remote from utility company infrastructure. In fact, it may be that the consideration of access to the grid just became moot. Proximity of utilities has always been a big factor in what’s considered “buildable land”. Obviously the more buildable the land….the higher the price tag. It could be that buying land more remote from the grid will save you a bunch more money than the cost of a Powerwall system and maybe even a backup “Genny” for good measure! Of course all of this assumes you would be planning for solar panels to begin with and for the life of me I can’t fathom why anyone wouldn’t.

There’s a much bigger picture to be considered here. Elon Musk used the analogy of cell phones and I think it’s appropriate. Think of all the areas in the world that modern, hard-wired communications infrastructure never reached. Cellular technology sort of “leap-frogged” and now there’s not much reason for countries to invest in hard communications infrastructure in many areas. Advances like mobile flying base station drones for Wi-Fi and others make it less likely expensive infrastructure will ever reach many areas so…. good riddance to ugly eyesores!

Remote areas the world over may have just become more livable and even more practical for a lot of good reasons. The combination of efficient PV solar panels and an affordable energy storage/management system like the Powerwall seem to have a realistic potential to make utility companies and their grids anachronistic.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’ll miss them too much!

Published by Bill Hoover