So you’ve got some gleaming solar panels on your roof and you’re generating a lot of your own power. Your electricity bills are almost gone, and you’re feeling like an environmental hero. Then, one windy night, a storm knocks down a massive tree in your neighborhood, knocking out the electricity. Will your appliance still remain on as the sun rises over the horizon? Most likely not.
The majority of solar panel systems installed in the United States are connected to the power grid. That is, you use power from the utility company at night and when your panels are unable to produce as much energy as you require at any particular moment. When your panels create more energy than you use, you transfer it to the grid.
Grid-connected systems must follow the utility’s guidelines, which means no power when the grid goes down unless you have a battery-backed solar system.
When the electricity goes out, most household solar systems are intended to shut down in order to prevent them from putting power back into the very cables that may be the source of the outage. After all, you don’t want your solar panels to be the cause of utility personnel being hurt by live voltage in downed power lines.
But what good are solar panels on a roof if they can’t generate electricity? There has to be a way to keep the electricity on, right? What about batteries, or blocking solar energy from flowing into the system while it’s down? Continue reading to get the answers to these questions.
The electric grid is used to generate and distribute power generated by your utility. You will be linked to the grid if you install a grid-tied solar system. When your system isn’t producing energy, you’ll be able to draw grid electricity from your utility, and you’ll be able to transfer surplus energy to the grid for credit in many jurisdictions, this is called net metering.
Of course, an off-grid system is not connected to the utility grid. You will have no access to energy other than what is generated by your solar system and stored in batteries, or what is provided by an on-site generator in exchange for that sweet, sweet independence. However, if the electricity goes out, you will be able to power your house or company.
When it comes down to it, the majority of solar energy systems built in the United States today are installed, at least in part, to save money on electricity. They are not placed with the goal of serving as a totally self-contained power source. Grid-tied solar is the more popular choice for many individuals because of the money they save and the reliability they gain. However, this means that the vast majority of solar systems in the United States will be unable to generate power if the grid fails.
Only sunshine is required for a properly built solar system to provide free power. So, why can’t you utilize this electricity in your own house or company if the power goes out?
It’s due to the way a grid-tied solar system operates. Sunlight strikes the panels, generating energy, which is then routed via the inverter and utilized to power your lights or keep your food cold. When your panels generate more power than you consume, the excess is sent back into the grid.
It’s a significant concern if the electric grid is down and your solar system is sending excess power onto the grid.
Utility technicians are working on the same power lines to repair the problem and get the region back up and running. They’re doing this under the assumption that the lines are no longer active. Because of the electricity generated by your solar system, such assumption is erroneous and can lead to major complications. To protect line workers and the grid, all grid-connected solar energy inverters must immediately shut down when the system fails and the electricity goes off.
We already know that the electric grid will shut down during severe weather or if customer demand overwhelms the infrastructure. Your solar panel system would be affected by this power interruption. Utilities may also choose to shut down if they believe the grid will become overburdened.
One of the reasons for a shutdown is to safeguard utility personnel who are sent to repair broken power lines. The other reason is that your solar panel system is linked to the grid through a solar inverter (also known as “grid-tied solar”). The inverter is connected to a smart meter, which records the quantity of energy you consume as well as the extra solar energy that is delivered back to the utility. As a result, if the grid fails, your solar panels will also fail.
Remember to keep net metering in mind. If your state allows net metering, you may save even more money by selling your extra energy to your local utility provider. If it’s available, your solar firm should be able to assist you through the process.
Solar battery storage is the only option for your solar panels to continue generating power during a power outage. Today, an increasing number of utility companies recognize the value of solar storage and are looking for methods to incorporate more renewable energy into their infrastructure.
A grid-tied system is usually the preferable option for people wishing to save money using solar panels. If you build an energy storage system, you may still have backup power even when the grid is down. Because you won’t need as many batteries as with an off-grid solution, the cost will be lower.
Installing one or two solar batteries will enable you to store any unused electricity generated by your solar system. You’ll then be able to use that power without placing utility personnel at risk if the power system goes down.
If a battery backup system seems like something you’d want to have, you should be aware of its limits. Though solar batteries are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, they are still prohibitively expensive for the majority of households and businesses. They have the potential to significantly increase the cost of your solar system. As a general guideline, a 9.8 kWh battery might cost roughly $15,000 (with installation) before incentives.
As a result, many solar contractors may advise you to just power a few essential products. These include emergency lights, medical equipment, freezers, and personal electronics/chargers. Installing enough batteries to keep your house or company working normally for a few days would almost certainly cost more than most people are prepared to pay.
Backup generators are frequently a less expensive choice if backup power is necessary to you but you do not want to spend the money on a battery system. You’ll be able to keep your home or company going for a few hundred or thousand dollars by visiting your local hardware shop. These generators, on the other hand, are frequently powered by fossil fuels. Not only are fossil fuels non-renewable, but they can also be difficult to get in times of emergency or natural disaster.
If you want to keep backup power expenses low but still want to use solar batteries, consider combining a solar battery system with a standard gas-powered generator.
While solar panels alone will not keep the lights on in your house or building during a power outage, they may still be a beneficial investment that protects you from growing energy expenses. Solar panels for houses can reduce your energy costs and perhaps start making you money in a very short period of time. Commercial solar panels provide the same advantages on a bigger scale, as well as a green marketing opportunity. If you’re considering installing solar panels for your home or business, call Forme Solar today!