Are solar panels the only option for running appliances without use of the power grid?

As someone with an apartment, I have a decent-sized balcony, but not enough to lay out an array of solar panels.

Are there other more compact technologies or is it just solar panels and solar shingles?

2 Answers 2


The obvious alternative would be to get some variety of vertical-axis wind turbine (lower footprint and more bird-safe than the traditional horizontal-axis ones), provided you have good consistency of wind speed where you live. AFAIK it helps a lot if your balcony is at one of the corners of the building, but you could check by measuring with some kind of anemometer for a while to get a sense of what productivity you might expect.

There's ongoing development into "omnidirectional" rotor/propeller designs that should be particularly well suited for the erratic wind directions in urban environments. If your apartment building isn't in the middle of nowhere by any chance, you should look specifically for some "omnidirectional" design (not sure if any of them are market-ready yet), as it should provide better performance than what you might find in existing studies, which were probably based on traditional designs only.

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    As far as I've read, trying to generate electricity from wind energy at home is not economical as one can expect only very little production in most cases.
    – gerrit
    Apr 17 at 7:12

A google search for 'balcony solar' will show that it is possible to buy solar panels which can be vertically mounted on the front of a balcony, and which either feed into a battery, or, in some cases, to the mains wiring of the apartment (I don't really understand how this works, but some do seem to offer it). These wouldn't take up any of the floor space on the balcony itself.

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