Nigeria is struggling with providing adequate power supply for its population. Having an estimated need of 12,000MW of power to achieve a level of stability in power supply and average generation of about 3000MW to 4000MW, the demand for electricity is a far cry from what the country is able to supply. This has left quite a large percentage of the country without access to electricity or adequate electricity. The inconsistency in the National grid has spiked a curiosity in the population about alternative power supply and living off the grid.
What does it mean to live off the grid?
Living off the grid simply means living without reliance on public electricity utility. Generating your own electricity without being connected to the National Grid. And to do this, one has to find an alternative source of power supply. There various forms of alternatives to power supply available in the world today, renewable or not. For example; Petroleum or diesel generators (which is very common in Nigeria), Biogas, Solar Power, amongst other.
Petroleum or Diesel generators are the most common form of alternative power in Nigeria, but it is common knowledge that running a home solely on a generator is a lot more expensive that simply living on the grid. With the ever rising cost of fuel in the country, you can easily spend as much as N45,000 to power your home in a month. These generators also constitute a huge hazard to the environment.
Solar Power, however, has been gaining some popularity lately as it is a sustainable and renewable form of energy and is considered by some as more efficient that the national grid power supply. Some of the advantages of running on off-grid solar power system are;
You are not subject to the terms, policies and hiccups of the local utility like mass disconnections, overbilling, illegal connections and so on. You are not affected by inconsistencies in the national grid and national grid collapses, which is pretty common in Nigeria. You are also not affected by tariff changes. In Nigeria, the three factors above are sources of real trouble for electricity consumers.
Some people may, however, consider Solar power to be not so much of an efficient alternative to power supply due to the cost acquiring it and maintaining it. Installing a solar power system in a home in Nigeria will cost more than half a million naira depending on the size. A 100W solar panel costs about N35,000 and about 8 of it will be needed to fully power a 3 bedroom flat. A solar power inverter, costing about N100,000 to N200,000 and finally one to ten deep cycle batteries, costing about N15,000 each will be needed.
Comparing this with the average cost of electricity that the same home will incure if living on the national grid. A 3 bedroom flat with a Television, a Refrigerator, a Ceiling fan, a Pressing Iron, an Air conditioner and 6 CFL bulbs, enjoying 8 hours of electricity per day will incure about N8,136 monthly on electric bills.
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Generally, the cost implications show that installing a solar power system can only be cost effective on a long-run, say 2 and a half to three years. So unless you’re a long-term thinker, this might scare you off.
Don’t forget that if you are using a Solar power system, you can choose to enjoy 24/7 electricity. You are in control of your power consumption and are not subject to epileptic power supply.
Also, installing a solar power system comes with the full responsibility of the utility company. You are your own generation company, transmission company and distribution company. You get to do all the hard work unlike when using the national grid power, where you pay your bills, sit back and allow the utility firms to take care of everything and ensure you have electricity.
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Maintaining a solar power system can be quite tasking but considering the fact that being connected to the national grid in Nigeria is not exactly a walk in the park also, you might want to consider going solar.
Lastly, Solar power can in some cases lead to waste of surplus energy, so if you are an energy conservative kind of person, this might tick you off. In other cases, you may be forced to monitor and reduce your energy consumption in other to never run out of power especially during the night. This is not necessarily a bad thing as efficient use of power is a good practice.
That being said, if you are considering switching to an alternative power source, you need to carefully consider, the cost implications, maintenance and the general circumstances surrounding power supply in your area such as, electricity tariff, stability of power supply, possibility of future change in stability etc.