One of the various “holy grails” of the prepping community is going off-grid, so that we don’t have to depend on our nation’s infrastructure for electricity, water, sewage or gas. While this may actually be considered illegal in some parts of the country, it could make survival much easier after a TEOTWAWKI event.
But living off-grid, either in normal times or in a post-disaster world is difficult. We consume massive amounts of electricity in our modern society; more than we can practically produce on our own. It’s unlikely that most of us will ever reach the point where we are producing enough electricity to meet all our needs, if our needs stay the same as they are today.
A few years back, I asked a solar company to give me a quote, more out of curiosity than anything else. Their quote was based upon my “average electrical use,” under the assumption that I would buy electricity from the utility company when I wasn’t producing enough and sell excess to them when I had it to spare. In that way, the grid would essentially act as a battery for me.
There are several fallacies to this concept, starting with electric companies selling electricity at retail, while buying it at wholesale. The company didn’t take into account inefficiencies in their system either. But why should they” They were trying to make a sale.
The bid for what was supposed to be what I needed was $60,000. I didn’t go through with it. But if I had, I’m quite sure that it would not have lived up to the expectations that were told to me. Their response would probably have been to tell me I needed to buy more.
In reality, the first step in going off-grid is to find ways of drastically reducing your electric consumption. The less you consume, the less you have to produce. Perhaps even more importantly, the less you have to be able to store in some sort of battery backup system (which can be more expensive than the solar panels themselves).
With lowered electrical consumption, you won’t have to worry about producing and storing as much electricity, making the overall project not only more cost-effective, but more likely to succeed.
The two basic options that people use are wind power and solar power. That’s mostly because those are the only two ways of producing electricity that can be done on a small enough scale, that we can do it at home. Someone who has a stream or river on their property might be able to do hydropower, but few of us have that available to us.
The other big possibility that is discussed is the use of generators. While generators are a good short-term power producer, able to keep you going for a couple of days, if a storm knocks out the power lines, they are expensive to operate for a prolonged period of time. Finding fuel would also become harder and harder as time went on.
As to the question of whether wind or solar should be used, the best answer is both. Neither wind power nor solar power is 100% reliable; they both depend on the weather. If both are used, then the overall system will likely be able to produce some power, even if one or the other isn’t producing anything at the moment. Of course, this assumes that you live in an area where you have both wind and sunlight regularly.