Producing your own electrical power has its own set of headaches. Cloudy weather with low levels of direct sunlight directly affect solar panel output, and low winds lower production from wind turbines. Periods during which both methods of power production are reduced will quickly reduce the amount of power available in storage batteries. Living off the grid on sustainable power isn’t always easy and conserving power goes with the territory, but when storage batteries reach critical levels, the time to use a different, but still ecologically-friendly method of power production has arrived.
Off Grid Power Systems
A combination of solar and wind generated electric power sources supply most off-grid systems with power and store it directly in a battery bank for immediate or future use. Solar panels produce direct current which requires no conversion for storage. Most wind turbines produce three-phase alternating current which is converted to direct current for storage in the battery bank. The battery bank connects to the homes main service panel through an inverter which converts the battery bank’s direct current to alternating current. The system works well for producing and storing power off the nation’s electrical grid as long as the sun shines and the wind blows.
Standby Generator Power
When an alternate method of producing power is required, a standby generator provides reliable and consistent power. It produces alternating current at 120 or 240 volts which powers the battery charger to bring stored energy levels up and also to directly supply the home with electricity at the same time. People living off grid face obstacles when it comes to using generators. Portable generators require human intervention to work; if battery levels drop when the homeowner is not present, they will continue to drop until exhausted. Most standby generators are not designed for off-grid use and factory warranties are voided if the home is not supplied with utility power.
Generac provides an off-grid solution to power production for periods when the usual methods―solar panels and wind turbines―are reduced or off line. The EcoGen is a six kilowatt, propane-powered generator with an extended service cycle designed specifically for off-grid use. It uses the same V-Twin, overhead valve industrial engine as other Generac units, but has an extended service period of two years or 500 hours for oil and filter changes, compared to 100 to 200 hours for most standby generators. It comes equipped as a 120-volt generator, but a 240-volt kit is easily applied in the field. Because it was designed specifically for off-grid use, the EcoGen includes a three-year, 2000 hour limited warranty.
The EcoGen connects directly to existing inverter/charger units and utilizes a two-wire remote start. When the storage batteries drop to a specific level, the drop is detected and the generator is started automatically. The unit provides 50 amperes of continuous electrical power at 120 volts to keep critical home appliances such as heat, refrigeration and plumbing supplied with power and while the battery bank charges at the same time. Once the battery bank is charged, the unit shuts down automatically. A manual operating mode is also available which requires the homeowner to start and stop the generator. The generator unit includes Generac’s Nexus Controller which offers numerous features and controls for efficient and clean power that meets or exceeds electric utility standards, while consuming just 0.85 gallons of propane per hour at half load.
The EcoGen Standby Generator sold by Norwall Power Systems meets the growing need for an energy efficient, ecologically-friendly, off-grid standby power generation.