Will Solar Panels Work During a Power Outage?
Power Outages are Increasing at an Alarming Rate
Power outages and blackouts were unfortunately common last year, affecting millions of people in the path of severe storms and wildfires. On the East coast, 60 mph winds cut power to more than 1 million customers - toppling 4,000 power lines - and on the West coast a raging fire in California forced utility companies to shut off electricity to hundreds of thousands.
The bad news is that these are only two examples of disasters and blackouts in 2017; in total there were 3,526 power outages across our country. To understand just how big global warming plays a part in our lives… there were about 5 outages per year in the 1950s. Currently? We lead all developed nations in power outages and blackouts.
Utilities Shut Off Power Grids in 2018
And now, a disturbing trend is emerging in 2018.
Power companies are preemptively shutting down the grid because they anticipate a blackout. For example, news outlets up and down California are reporting that utilities are planning on voluntarily shutting down power. If wildfires or customer demand is too much for the grid to handle, utilities want the authority to turn off the power that feeds our homes.
Our Grid Needs Rescuing
Why? To put it bluntly, grid power is failing. And not just in California. In some places our power grid is over 100 years old. This is worthy of repeating; parts of our power system are more than 100 years old. And we may not be able to fix it if we don’t act soon.
Most of the grid - all 200,000 miles of power lines - has been operating on technology from the 1950s. The majority of Americans get their power supply from this grid to run our homes. The irony is... we can’t live life without electricity. And if we don’t start using renewable energies like solar energy or wind now, blackouts and outages could cause catastrophic damage.
In a nutshell, the grid can’t store excess power or meet high demands from consumers (i.e., when we need it the most). And when that happens? It shuts down.
But there is good news and there are solutions. If utilities build new infrastructure to support sustainable energies rather than fixing an outdated and very old grid, and if they support solar for both commercial and residential - including battery storage - we can create a brighter, more reliable future.
Solar Panels Plus Battery Storage Keep You Powered-up During a Blackout
Now that we’ve given you the background, let’s answer the question:
Will solar panels work during a blackout? No, unless you have battery storage. Yes, if you have battery storage.
Why do you need a battery backup? Currently, the grid will shut down during extreme weather conditions, or if consumer demand overloads the system. This power outage would include your solar panel system. Utilities can also shut down if they think the grid will become overloaded.
One of the reasons for a shutdown is safety. When utility technicians are sent to fix a power outage, we don’t want to electrocute them. The other reason is that your solar panel system is connected to the grid via a solar inverter (or “grid-tied solar”). The inverter runs to a smart meter that records the amount of energy you use, and also the excess energy that is sent back to the utility. So if the grid shuts down, so will your solar panels.
(As a reminder, don’t forget about net metering. If you have net metering plans in your state you can save even more by selling your excess energy back to your local utility company.
Batteries Store Excess Power from Your Solar Panels
When you have a solar system plus battery storage and a power outage happens, your battery kicks in to keep your house humming. Hot popcorn? No problem. Start the movie. When a blackout happens or when your utility decides to shut down the grid because a storm is on the way, your home can run on the energy stored in your solar battery. Yes, it’s as simple as that.
With solar and a battery storage system you generate, store and manage renewable power from the sun, on your own terms. When the lights go out across the neighborhood, your home stays powered up. The battery storage system allows you to store the electricity your solar panels produces during the day, and use it when you need it most.