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Off-grid or on-grid solar power system, which one should you choose?

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On-grid system is one in which the solar power system is connected to the utility’s power grid while being off-grid means the system works independently and the consumer is not connected to the utility’s power system.

Off-grid or on-grid solar power system, which one should you choose?
Amid an unprecedented expansion in the renewable energy sector, a number of businesses and individuals are shifting to solar power systems. Solar energy has also received a solid push from various governments.
Between 2014 and 2021, India’s solar energy capacity increased 15-fold. By 2022, the government aims to increase the solar capacity of 37 GW, installed in 2020, to 270 GW, reported The Hindu.
Commercial and industrial buildings that source grid electricity at higher rates from power utilities are now weighing renewable energy options to offset the cost. However, a common dilemma is whether to connect to an off-grid or on-grid solar power system. Before making the choice, here’s a look at the difference between the two systems
On-grid systems
On-grid system is the one in which solar power system is connected to the utility’s power grid. The excess power generated is sent to the utility grid and the consumer gets compensated for it. Similarly, when the system underproduces power, the consumer can draw electricity from the grid and pay for the units used.
Being tied to a grid is beneficial as the consumer does not need to buy an expensive battery backup to store excess energy. This makes on-grid systems more popular in residential spaces.
Businesses also use the system to meet their daily requirement and earn income from the excess power generated. However, being connected to the grid means the consumer may have to face power outages. A consumer can use net metering for on-grid systems.
According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, the government targets to install 100 GW grid-connected solar power system by 2022. To achieve the target, the Centre has launched schemes and undertaken several policy measures to encourage use of solar power systems such as Solar Park Scheme, VGF Schemes and Grid-Connected Solar Rooftop Scheme.
As a result, the cumulative capacity of grid-connected solar power projects has increased from 932 MW in 2011-12 to 6762.87 MW in 2015-16 and 28180.68 MW in 2018-19.
Why one should choose on-grid systems?
  • Easy to install, cost-effective
  • Offer residential users and businesses the opportunity to earn passive income from surplus energy produced by the systems
  • Private, commercial or industrial buildings can avail of ‘Accelerated Depreciation Benefit’ by setting up PV rooftop systems, which is currently 80 percent in a year, according to an Economic Times report.
  • Off-grid systems
    Being off-grid means the system works independently and the consumer is not connected to any utility’s power system. This system uses batteries to store generated solar power.
    Although off-grid systems are self-sustaining, they involve higher expenses as the consumer has to buy a battery pack, solar panels, grid box, inverter, charge controller, mounting structure and balance of systems. The panels generate and store power during the day and use it at night.
    The system is ideal for places that suffer frequent power outages. In rural and remote areas, off-grid solar systems can facilitate independent and sustainable electricity generation.
    One of the oldest programmes under the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is the Off-grid Solar PV Applications Programme through which the ministry has set up solar home lighting systems, solar street lighting systems, solar lanterns, solar pumps and solar study lamps.
    According to the ministry website, solar pumps are an important component of the solar off-grid programme which gives small and marginal farmers a reliable irrigation facility. These pumps are being installed in rural areas to replace existing diesel pumps used for irrigation. The government has been running the programme since 1992 and to date, 2.37 lakh solar pumps have been installed in rural areas.
    Apart from this, the government has set up 65,17,180 units of solar lamps and lanterns and 6,71,832 units of solar street lights.
    Why one should choose off-grid systems?
    • Makes consumer self-reliant, independent of grid
    • Consumers do not have to face power outages due to grid failures and shutdowns
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