California is a state that has long attracted those seeking a brighter future and financial independence, from the Gold Rush all the way to the Silicon Valley boom. With recent spikes in electricity costs, rolling blackouts, and uncertainty from wildfires and powerlines, more and more homeowners are taking power into their own hands. Though the numbers are still small, many homeowners in Northern California (from rural areas to even the suburbs outside of San Francisco) have switched completely off the local grid, opting to use only the power they produce themselves.
While some may think of going off-grid as something for hardcore survivalists or cabin dwellers, being energy independent isn’t reserved for extremists anymore. With growing green and environmentally-friendly construction and home design developments, the idea of going off-grid has become more tenable for the average homeowner.
What Makes Going Off-Grid Attractive in Sonoma County?
Of course, going off the grid has always been an option, just not a very attractive or accessible option for the modern homeowner -- that is until residential solar panels and solar batteries became extremely affordable in recent years.
1. Energy Independence & Self-Reliance
For some homeowners, the move to go off the grid is because of a desire for more energy independence. Many homeowners throughout Sonoma County and surrounding areas know all too well how recent wildfires and heavy storms can impact their access to energy. Some homeowners have lost power for days, while others have been unable to access grid energy for weeks. This uncertainty has been a large motivator for homeowners to seek more security with solar panels and battery storage.
For those who are able to, being completely independent from the grid can be an even bigger relief, assuring them they won’t go without power due to the power company’s decisions. Being self-reliant for energy needs has definitely become more affordable and easier than ever, making it a smart investment for homeowners who don’t want to be left in the dark.
2. Reducing Carbon Footprint with Cleaner Energy
For those concerned about California’s traditional utilities’ climate impact, going off the grid can also alleviate environmental concerns. More and more natural disasters caused by dramatic climate change have resulted in unexpected blackouts, often lasting more than just a few days. While these blackouts have occurred largely in Northern California, they have also impacted areas like Texas and Louisiana, making energy independence a matter of climate awareness as well. Being completely off the grid with solar panels and a solar battery means a home isn’t utilizing anything produced by the traditional energy grid. Though the larger global climate impact for off-grid homes may take more time, it is an individual step in the right direction and allows homeowners peace of mind about where their power is coming from.
3. Affordability in the Face of Growing Utility Costs
Building an off-grid energy system can be an investment that many homeowners look at paying itself off down the road. Based on reports from installers, on average, a fully off-grid energy system for a home in California can cost anywhere from $35,000 to $100,000. According to energy experts, they estimate that as prices of going off the grid continue to fall over the next several years, millions of homeowners will switch off to this approach. Projections from RMI (formerly Rocky Mountain Institute) show that the majority of homeowners in California will be able to save money by going off the grid with more affordable solar panel installations and solar batteries by 2031 -- especially with the forecasted spikes in utility rates over that period.
For some more isolated or rural areas, especially throughout Sonoma, an off-grid home could actually be a more affordable option right now. Recent new off-grid builds in Northern California have seen cost savings compared to the expenses involved in securing a new utility connection.
While solar panels are still a great investment for homeowners looking to simply add supplemental and backup power, California’s proposed reduction in incentives means that homes still connected to the grid may not be able to maximize their savings as much. Comparatively, an off-grid solar panel and battery system can be more upfront cost but eliminate fluctuating and unpredictable electric bills.
Overall, this makes the cost-savings available through cleaner and more independent energy production that much more attractive for homeowners throughout Northern California. If you are interested in learning more about building a green home with an off-grid power system or adding a solar panel and battery system, Firebrand Safety Systems can review your options with you today.