Can solar panels provide energy during the power outages?
People often think installing a PV system is like installing a power production plant that works all the time, no matter what. However, this assumption is not correct. Because there are no guarantees your solar power system will power your home every day all year.
Power outages are one of the times whether you will have power or not will primarily depend on your solar installation.
If you have a grid-tied system, it won’t work during an outage. However, if there are batteries in your installation, then you can power your home during the blackout.
Off-grid systems continue to work through power outages as long as they are backed up with sufficient battery storage capacity. If you don’t have enough energy stored in your batteries, odds are that your home won’t stand for much during a power outage.
What Happens to Solar Panels During a Power Outage?
A properly installed solar system requires only sunlight to generate free electricity. So then, why can’t you use this electricity in your own home in the event the grid goes down?
During power outages, your solar panels continue to function and generate energy. However, the power generated is not transferred to your home.
This is due to how the grid-tied solar system operates. Your panels get the sunlight and generate energy which then passes through the inverter and is used in your house. When your solar panels produce more energy than you need, the excess is fed into the grid.
Solar panels use the sun’s energy to collect and generate electricity. A PV inverter converts the collected power to alternating current (AC) so that it can be used by appliances in your home.
For safety reasons, most inverters are set to shut down when the grid goes down. Utilities don’t want accidental backflow while they work to restore power during an outage.
What this means, even solar-powered homes go without power.
How to continue to get power during an outage?
If you have a grid-tied solar system, it will be connected to the electric grid. You’ll be able to draw from your utility when your panels aren’t generating energy and send excess power generated by them back out for credit in many states (aka, net metering).
The majority of solar energy systems installed in the US are installed to save money on energy consumption. They are not installed with the intention of being a completely independent power source.
Grid-tied solar is the more popular option for many people because of the money they save and the reliability they get. However, this also means that the vast majority of solar systems in the US will be unable to generate electricity when the grid goes down.
Here is what you can do to continue to have energy in your home during a power outage.
Use SPS Inverters
However, you can work around this by installing inverters with stable power supply (SPS) features. SPS inverters are designed to stay on during power outages.
This way, you can at least have lights and other basic functions in your home while waiting for the grid to come back up again.
The power is typically supplied through a single, small outlet built into the inverter.
Previously, the power supply produced was only sufficient to power a few main appliances. It’s also worth noting that the electricity was only available during the day while the sun is up.
However, there are companies that are developing smart inverters that can meet the entire energy use during a power outage.
These inverters would make it easier for homeowners to monitor their power consumption and provide power during blackouts. When these systems become widely available, we will be able to power more than a few appliances when the sun shines.
Use battery storage units
You can use battery storage units to store any excess energy generated from your solar panels and use this stored energy during blackouts.
When you need power, battery storage systems are invaluable. When the power goes out, most battery storage systems automatically turn on, and the transition is often so smooth that homeowners may not even notice they’ve switched power sources.
The capacity of the batteries determines how much power your battery storage units provide. You can set up a system that will power your entire house for a set period of time or one that will only power essential appliances.
Every situation is unique, and this is partly determined by your power requirements. What kind of power do you require? How stable is your demand, and how critical is a continuous power supply?
Generally, choosing battery storage the primary constraint is budget. Larger battery storages are more expensive. Therefore, you need to choose one that is appropriate for your needs.
Invest in a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply)
Consider investing in a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply). This way your equipment stays powered even if there’s been a sudden loss of electricity from the grid.
A UPS system will ensure that the power to a computer or other device is cut when the utility voltage drops. It will also provide backup battery power in case of an outage so that it can continue running for up time periods, often between 15 and 20 minutes.
Although the period it provides energy may not seem long enough, it is enough to save your work on your computer or get prepared for the power outage.
Also, you don’t need to use strategies we have counted in isolation. A lot of solar PV owners find value using a combination of SPS Inverters, battery storage units, and a UPS in conjunction.
You won’t have to worry about a power outage if you have an off-grid solar power system. However, you may still experience a power outage as a result of a problem with your solar panels or system installation.
Get more battery storage
Almost all off-grid systems include a solar battery storage unit for storing excess energy.
The size of your off-grid system and battery storage, as well as your energy needs, will determine how long your house can survive a power outage caused by a problem with your installation.
If there are frequent power outages in your area, or if you live in a rural area that is hard to get someone to fix an issue get more battery storage. In this way, you can store more energy to use once you have an outage issue.
That said, your solar installation should have sufficient size in order to fully fill up your batteries.
Try other energy sources
We know the importance of clean, renewable energy. However, in my opinion, emergencies like power outages are the exceptions.
If your solar installation is off-grid, you may want to have a fuel generator to run vital equipment like your water pump or refrigerator up until you fix issues in your system.