At Sage Mountain Center, 3,000 watts (3kW) of photovoltaic modules (solar panels) and a 1,000 watt (1kW) wind generator convert natural resources into electricity. Since we are off-grid, the electricity is stored in sealed batteries for nighttime use. The batteries are recharged during the day by the solar panels and by the wind generator when the wind is blowing. In 25 years Sage Mountain Center has never paid an electric bill because it has generated 100% of its electricity from the sun.
Around the world, homes and businesses using solar electric are utilizing grid-tied system where they store excess energy on the grid. Their electric meters run backwards and most utilities credit their customers through net-metering programs. These are battery-less systems so there is no backup if the power goes out. Moreover, you’ll probably still have an electric bill because most homes consume more electricity than their systems are sized for. An interesting trend to watch is “AC coupled” systems where there is a small backup battery system and the utility and the home/business communicate with each other.
Almost every regular appliance can powered by solar electricity: televisions, computers, stereos, blenders, most power tools, microwaves, vacuums, washing machines, and so on. Weak 12VDC systems are a thing of the past. In today’s modern off-grid homes all appliances function as they would in a home hooked up to the utility grid. However, because of the tremendous amount of electricity some appliances consume, such as dryers, baseboard heating, or electric stoves and ovens, these are usually operated using a propane gas or wood alternative. The average American household consumes 25,000 watts over a 24 hour period or 25 kilowatt hours of electricity a day. Because of passive solar designs and high appliance and lighting efficiency, Sage Mountain Center uses only 5,000 watts per day–and that’s for 6,600 square feet of living space!