Distributed generation helps to reduce the high production and transmission losses associated with centralized power plants by reducing the distance from point of production to point of use, and creates a more resilient grid less susceptible to massive outages when a large power plant goes offline.
Off-Grid — A much smaller number of homeowners generate and manage their own electrical energy, functioning independently in off-grid homes. These systems typically rely on a bank of batteries to provide chemical storage of electrical energy, which can be charged by the home energy system as power is available and drained when power is required in the home.
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Off-grid systems reward energy-efficient home design and conservative power use within the home. If energy demands are low, this type of system can be affordable and reliable. As demand rises, the systems grow in size, complexity, and cost.
The addition of battery storage requires a space for housing the batteries and associated controls, and the owner must maintain the batteries and ensure the balance of power in and out of the system. New battery technologies are now reaching the market, and developments in energy storage may make off-grid systems — or grid-tied systems that include in-house storage — more affordable and practical.
Off-grid generation systems typically have higher capacities than grid-tied systems to accommodate for the variable nature of renewable energy; daily and seasonal swings in generation can require overproduction and large storage capacity to ensure power is available through times of low or no production. Off-grid systems provide a high degree of independence and resilience, with little or no reliance on outside sources of production or delivery.
The photovoltaic effect describes the ability of photons of light (predominantly from the sun) to excite electrons into a higher state of energy, allowing them to act as charge carriers for an electric current.