Will solar panels work during a power outage?

Oct 18 2021
Will solar panels work during a power outage?

A blackout brings everything to a sudden halt. But thanks to technology, we can prevent frequent interruptions using heavy-duty batteries and top-quality solar panels for a power outage.

Electricity became an integral part of human life decades ago. Since its discovery, it has been used in healthcare, trade, transport, education, communication, research and development, national security, and much more. Electricity is also the primary source of energy for millions of homes around the country. For instance, The Texas Interconnection (managed by The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT)) supplies electricity to over 26 million Texas customers

Due to the unpredictable nature of blackouts, you need to brace for the inevitable with ready access to solar power during power outages. Storms, for instance, are a leading cause of electrical interruptions. They can cause a blackout that lasts a few minutes, hours, weeks, or months, depending on the severity of the damage. 

The solution? 

Get a team of trustworthy experts like Innovate Solar to install solar panels for emergency power.

Why do outages happen?

A blackout will, in most cases, result from physical damage to the electrical lines, poles, transformers, and other equipment. Every year, hundreds of drivers accidentally ram down electricity poles, leading to unplanned blackouts. A Guide for Reducing Collisions Involving Utility Poles reported that 50% of pole crashes accidents occurred in broad daylight while only 25% occurred under lighted conditions at night. 

Bad weather is also a major concern for hundreds of utility companies around the world. Heavy rains, flooding, and lightning strikes can disrupt the electricity supply. Additionally, fallen trees, big chunks of broken tree branches, and other debris brought by high winds cause temporary interference in generation and transmission.

Small animals like squirrels, rats, and rodents are also responsible for the occasional outages. These creatures chew on electrical cables, and in the process, take out main supply lines. Large vehicles can also bring down electrical wires and the supporting infrastructure, leading to costly yet highly dangerous blackouts.

Power also goes out due to planned outages. Public utility companies schedule routine maintenance, which involves shutting down part of or the entire local grid. Doing so allows utility workers to carry out the repairs, inspect the poles, equipment testing, and detect damaged or aging equipment without risking electrocution. Although homeowners have to survive through the temporary interruption, a planned outage prevents even longer blackouts.

Why don’t solar panels work in a blackout?

It can be quite frustrating if you have solar and the power goes out anyway. Your system can generate sufficient electricity to meet your daily demands and grant you freedom from an unreliable grid. Approximately 1.6% of US electricity generation comes from the sun’s energy, as more and more people turn to natural renewable energy sources.

Do solar panels work during a power outage? Before installing the next solar energy system you find, please note that your panels won’t work in the middle of an outage. Most panels are grid-tied. An outage in the grid will make electricity inaccessible to the consumer despite having a grid backup. 

Your grid-tied system won’t work during an outage. But can you lose power with solar panels despite having a physical connection to the grid? Yes. Losing solar power happens for safety and technical efficiency reasons. Fortunately, there are other ways to make your system work without the grid. 

Here are the reasons why your panels won’t work in a blackout.

Reason 1: Safety

When the power goes out, the utility company sends its linemen to assess the damage and do the necessary repairs. To do so, they must be in a safe working environment. No live current should flow through the wires at the time of the repair.

Reason 2: Efficiency and prevention of damage to other electrical equipment

A high output panel stabilizes the electricity it produces. Without this control feature, the panels would generate fluctuating bursts of current in response to the sun’s intensity changes.

Therefore, it would not be wise to connect your system directly to your wiring without the grid’s backup. Doing so would only cause flickering lights, expose your appliances to damage, or worse, be a safety hazard.

The difference between Off-grid and grid-Tied

A grid-tied system is one connected to the local utility grid. It works hand in hand with the local utility company to generate sufficient electricity to meet your daily energy demands. But how are solar panels connected to the grid? Experts use inverters and microinverters, DC, and AC couplers.

A grid-tied system strikes a balance between the photovoltaic cells inside the panels and the surrounding architecture. They put electricity back into the grid when the panels generate excess electricity. In the end, your power bill drops in a process called net metering.

An off-grid solar, on the other hand, has no actual ties with the grid. The homeowner is 100% responsible for their electricity. Off-grid solar systems are an excellent choice for inaccessible or remote areas where the grid extension cost outweighs the cost to install solar. On the downside, going off-grid tags along with other expenses e.g., buying and installing batteries, gas, or diesel generators.

You can also opt for hybrid solar power; a perfect power outage backup featuring a battery and a physical connection to the grid. 

Off-grid systems

Off-grid solar systems grant the homeowner independence from the inefficiencies of the local grid. However, full dependence on the sun's energy might sound intimidating, especially when living in low-sunshine areas.

Going fully off-grid has its advantages. For starters, homeowners can enjoy dropping electricity bills. You only need to worry about the high upfront installation cost and the occasional solar power outage. Besides, the falling prices of equipment make solar energy a cost-effective investment.

Although off-grid systems installation costs grow by the day, anyone with the right tools and knowledge can easily install theirs with a little help from an expert. An off-grid solar energy system is a friend of the environment. It’s also an excellent option for all who want to live green and avoid burning fossil fuels to produce electricity.

Battery-backed systems

A solar power system is incomplete without solar panel backup power. Battery-backed systems grow popular by the day. Unfortunately, not all people understand how a battery-backed system can counterattack the rising cost of electricity. Batteries have had a special place in our lives since their invention. Thanks to technology, more advanced types of batteries can provide sufficient energy to meet your domestic electricity demands.

Introducing a power outage battery backup to your newly installed rooftop panels lets you enjoy electricity when no one else has it. When you hook up solar panels to your electricity and add a powerful battery from a reliable manufacturer, you’ll enjoy an uninterrupted supply during an electrical outage. 

How to use solar panels during power outage?

Using a generator with solar panels is one of the cheapest but not-so-efficient ways to power your house during a blackout. Most generators produce enough electricity to run almost all your home appliances. But as an environment-loving citizen, burning fuel for electricity during a blackout is not the best solution especially if you are looking to prevent environmental pollution.

A solar power system backed by quality batteries detects the outage and detaches itself from the grid and provides electricity as an independent unit. Today, you can find a vast collection of batteries for your brand-new system. Some people prefer running houses on solar power with the traditional acid batteries running behind the scenes.

Inverters also play an essential role in converting the sun’s radiation into electrical energy. Your panels will produce a direct current that is not readily usable by your household appliances. It must be converted into a more suitable form; an alternating current which almost all electronics - power tools, oven, microwave, refrigerator, and other equipment - utilize. 

An inverter is a device that turns a direct current (DC) into an alternating current (AC). With solar power, you’ll be using a special solar inverter to harness the sun's energy without batteries or a physical connection to the grid. The inverter also detects when current flows through the grid and shuts down automatically during a blackout, keeping the utility workers safe.

Is solar worth the money?

Powering a house with solar panels is moe than worth it, from a long-term perspective. If you live in an area without reliable electricity already, predictable weather, and regular sunshine, finding innovative solutions with your trusted solar energy partners could minimize the recurrent costs. 

Converting the sun’s energy into electricity is also good for the environment, since it doesn’t produce harmful emissions. A word of advice, though: if you’re considering the sun’s energy to run your home or business, you need to brace for unpredictable weather patterns and slightly higher first-time installation costs. Get in touch with Innovate Solar today for a solution that will fit your needs and budget, with as little hassle as you’ll find anywhere.

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