Power blackouts are sudden inconveniences in our modern lives. Especially here in the Las Vegas Valley, where power outages happen from time-to-time, people wonder if solar energy can be a solution. Will solar panels work in a power outage? The answer is more complex than a simple yes or no.
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Do Solar Panels Work When the Power Goes Out?
While it’s true that you can’t turn the sun off, that doesn’t mean you can power your home or building from solar panels in a power outage. If you’ve taken a net metering approach with your solar panels, they remain connected to the grid and feed into NV Energy throughout the day. When there’s a blackout for any reason, whether it’s due to a storm, a car hitting a pole, or a transformer exploding, the inverter in your solar panels will detect it and turn off. This prevents your solar panels from feeding electricity through potentially downed wires, a dangerous effect known as “islanding.”
When the inverter to your solar panels is turned off, the panels themselves will enter a safe state that prevents them from overloading with the electricity they can continue to produce. As a result, your solar panels will idle during a blackout so they don’t damage themselves. While there are many potential benefits of solar panels, in most circumstances, keeping the lights on during a blackout isn’t one of them. However, this isn’t universally true, and in some instances you would still be able to keep your home or business powered during a wider outage.
How to Use Solar Panels During a Power Outage
Your solar panels are connected to the electrical grid, so anything that affects the grid ultimately affects them. In the event of a power outage, most solar panels will also be shut down as a precautionary measure. If your solar panels are still sending energy through the grid when other sources of power are down, they could harm workers who may have to conduct repairs. However, if you have a solar battery, your panels will be able to continue operating and can still power your home or business.
Solar Battery to the Rescue
If you’re wondering how to use solar panels during a power outage, then a solar battery is your answer. A solar battery is simply a battery that stores the energy your panels create throughout the day. This allows you to draw from a steady supply of power to supplement the variable amount that is supplied by your panels. Solar batteries are expensive and can be harmful for the environment, so you’ll want to make sure that it’s the right choice for your solar investment.
Convert DC Energy to AC Energy
If you do plan on emphasizing resilience in your solar array, then you may want to pay special attention to the type of inverter you choose. Your panels naturally produce Direct Current (DC) electricity, but the grid uses Alternating Current (AC) electricity to power your home or business. String inverters, hybrid inverters, microinverters, and power optimizers are different technologies that convert the DC energy your panels produce into AC energy. Check out their costs and benefits to determine which one is right for your needs.
String inverters: The most affordable option, string inverters convert the energy of many different panels, but can fail if a single panel in the series goes bad.
Microinverters: Microinverters are more expensive than string inverters but offer protection from a system-wide failure, as each panel has its own inverter.
Power optimizers: Power optimizers control the solar panel to maximize energy production by moving it throughout the day and by moderating the currents they send out to minimize losses from electrical imbalances.
Hybrid inverters: Hybrid inverters are more expensive than string inverters, but they combine the solar inverters and battery inverters, which are needed for systems that store excess electricity via battery into one, removing the need for two separate inverters.
Protect Your Home or Building During a Power Outage
While solar panels won’t keep the lights on in your home or building during a power outage without a separate battery, they can still serve as a valuable investment that insulates you from rising energy costs. Solar panels for homes can cut down on your energy bills and actually start making you money in a relatively short time. Commercial solar panels offer the same benefits on a larger scale, along with a green marketing opportunity. Contact Bell Solar & Electrical Systems today if you’re thinking about installing solar panels for your home or business!