The generator is only a component of the system, not the entirety of it.
Hybrid and Diesel Energy Solutions
In our previous article on hybrid off-grid power systems, we discussed the benefits of assembling a hybrid off-grid power system. In short, hybrid off-grid power systems combine renewable energy solutions and fossil fuels. Hybrid off-grid power systems make use of specialised diesel generators, battery systems, solar panels, wind turbines, and/or microhydro systems to create a stable, independent and self contained energy grid.
However, choosing to install a hybrid off-grid power system is not the only solution, and it may not be the best solution for your unique needs. A diesel off-grid power system may offer an attractive alternative to using a hybrid energy solution, especially if sources of renewable energy are limited in the area you intend to install your off-grid power system.
The Diesel Solution
As the name implies, a diesel off-grid power system utilises a diesel generator as its primary source of power generation. The energy produced is then used to meet current power demands, while simultaneously charging an attached battery bank. The system is designed to ensure the diesel generator operates intermittently, operating automatically only when its battery stores become low, or manually as required to accommodate spikes in energy load.
Although diesel off-grid power systems can be quite efficient and cost-effective, this type of off-grid solution has been largely overshadowed by the allure of renewable energy technologies. However, modern diesel off-grid power systems have become increasingly viable – due in part to the push for development of renewable energy solutions, which necessitated advancements in battery technology.
In a diesel off-grid power system, the prevailing philosophy is that the generator is only a component of the system, not the entirety of it.
The Yanmar – Himoinsa HYW-20 M5 Canopy Diesel Generator comes packed with features and is the ideal solution to integrate with your solar, battery and inverter system as well as for use in agriculture, mining & construction applications.
Energy Management and Storage
A successful diesel off-grid power system utilises the full potential of the generator. To maximise efficiency, the generator should only run when higher energy requirements are present. For example, if your diesel off-grid power system supplies electricity to your home, a good time to operate the generator is when you use a washer and dryer for laundry, when you vacuum your floor, or run energy hungry power tools.
Managing the generator runtime in this way ensures that all power requirements are met, and the battery banks are charged to run the less demanding electrical components of your home or site. Proper energy management also saves on fuel costs, maintenance expenses, and extends the service life of the generator.
Diesel or Hybrid Off-Grid Power System?
Both diesel and hybrid off-grid power systems offer amazing opportunities for energy independence, however, your specific needs and situation will dictate which option is the best energy solution for you. Ask yourself the following three key questions to determine which off-grid power system best suits your needs:
- What are my energy needs?
- How much do I want to spend?
- What are my site specific conditions?
Energy Needs & Power Consumption
What are you powering, what is your current power consumption, and what do you need to power in the future? The energy requirements necessary to keep lights and appliances running in a home are drastically different from the energy demands of powering a shed or workshop. Having an estimate of your power consumption will help you determine the size and scope of the off-grid power system you need, and in turn, which off-grid power system will give you the most for your money.
If your off-grid power system will be installed on a structure or site that is currently connected to the national grid, you can use your electric bill history as a guide, noting how many kWh you currently buy. In a situation where you will be building a new structure, you won’t have that luxury, and it’s probably best to contact the experts.
Budget & Expense
Cost is a major concern when installing an off-grid power system, so you’ll want to consider your budget. A diesel off-grid power system has a relatively low cost in comparison to the hybrid alternative. Unfortunately, a hybrid off-grid power system installation has a substantial upfront cost that will be impractical for many looking to cut the utility company’s cord and achieve energy independence.
As a guide, consider the expense to purchase and install to a standalone solar power system. A 4000 watt solar panel array of 12 to 18 solar panels is recommended for the average 2,000 square foot home. A solar system of that size costs upwards to $6000 plus, and takes roughly 4 years to begin paying for itself in energy savings.
In a hybrid off-grid power system, solar panels are but one component in the larger system – which means you should expect to pay several thousand more for a true hybrid off-grid energy solution.
There are situations in which it isn’t feasible to install a hybrid off-grid power system.
Since hybrid solutions focus on utilising sunlight, wind, and/or water for most of the system’s power generation, the site where you plan to build your hybrid off-grid power system will need to accommodate the limitations of those technologies. If the area you need to power is too cloudy, doesn’t have enough wind, and there isn’t a river or stream on site, the installation of a hybrid off-grid power system becomes impractical.
A word from the editor
My name is Aaron Robins, I’m the sales manager at Generator Power. I have been in the generator game for over 10 years. I have supplied generators to residential and commercial clients for a wide range of various uses. My aim in writing this short article it that I may be able to arm you with the right information in order to help you make a wise decision. There are many people who make poorly informed decisions in my industry. This commonly results in loss of finances, wasted time and bucket loads of stress. I believe in doing a job right the first time and with as little stress possible. As a result I aim to educate potential customers so that people avoid these issues before they happen.