Does Solar Power Work in a Power Outage?
How to Keep Your Lights On During a Hurricane, Blackout, or Almost Any Natural Disaster
If you have a typical grid-tied solar energy system, your solar power will not work during a power outage. The only way around this is to use solar battery storage.
While it may seem frustrating to generate your own power from the sun and yet still lose it during a blackout, the reason is because your solar energy system is tied to the grid, unless you have an off-grid system which most people do not.
Being tied to the grid means you can still draw power from the utility, and if you have net metering, you can also send power back to it as well.
During a power outage, your solar power system is automatically shut off as a safety measure to prevent what is called “islanding”. When the power goes out, workers have to go out to the power lines to make repairs. If solar powered buildings were still actively generating power and sending it to the grid, there would be a huge power surge when the power gets turned back on and could potentially injure an electrical lineman, so your power gets shut off as a safety measure.
How Solar Batteries Keep the Power On During a Blackout
Solar batteries store energy generated by your solar panels. It’s a liberating technology because even though you’re connected to the grid, you can also function kind of like a virtual power plant and keep your lights on even if there’s a power outage all around you.
The batteries store the energy, and you can choose to use the power they’ve stored up whenever you wish.
In fact, there are three primary uses for a sonnen Eco battery system:
1. Backup Power for Emergencies
You can store up to 16KW of power in sonnen Eco battery systems, as you’ll see in a moment. In their Eco 10 system, the table below lists an example of systems you can power at full power for nearly 5 hours. As you can see, if you reduce your power usage, your most critical systems will last even longer.
For prolonged power outages, once your stored energy is used up, you would then lose power. So probably watching DVDs on your LCD TV isn’t a wise move.
How many kWh does a home use? How many solar panels do you need?
2. Using Solar Power Whenever You Want
Did you know you can use solar power at night? It’s true!
One of the best reasons to consider getting a sonnen Eco battery system is to maximize the amount of solar energy you use each day. You can store up the solar energy during day when you don’t use as much power at home. And then at night, you can switch on the batteries and use the energy.
Without battery storage, you’ll continue to be dependent on the power company at night, and any excess energy your solar panels produce that doesn’t gets used is either lost or perhaps sent back to the grid where you may or may not get credited
But you’ll save a lot more money using all the power yourself than selling it back.
3. Targeting Your Solar Energy Usage
In terms of the whole power grid, most energy is used during the afternoon and the evening, when people start coming home, turning on lights, and using all their appliances.
But the best hours to generate solar energy are during the middle of the day.
What to do?
Store up your solar energy during the day, and then use it during the evening when you need it most. You will greatly multiply your savings from solar power if you use this strategy consistently.
With solar battery storage, you can decide to store it up for use during a power outage, or you can use it each day when the sun goes down and your energy needs go up.
What about Hurricane Outages and Solar Power?
Hurricane season is a scary time if you depend on continuous power. Solar batteries are the best investment you can make if you want to keep powering your life during a power outage, including one caused by a hurricane.
If the power gets knocked out, it might be a while before it gets restored. But if you use only your most critical systems, like your refrigerator and communication devices, you can make it through several days using solar battery backups.
In a hurricane power outage, we recommend unplugging all the appliances you won’t use, because most of them still draw a little power even when not in use, especially with all the ‘smart’ appliances now available.
And what if you have batteries and are in the habit of using all your stored solar energy each day, like in #2 and #3 above? When hurricane season nears, stop using it each day and get your batteries up to full capacity. If stormy weather is common and power outages are unpredictable, you will probably always want to keep some power in reserve.
Worried if your solar panels will survive a hurricane? Rest assured, they should be fine.
Our Preferred Solar Battery Storage Option
Coastal Solar recommends sonnen Eco battery systems for solar energy storage so you can keep your lights on during a power outage or want to use solar power even when the sun isn’t shining.
Here are a few reasons why we like sonnen:
- Uses Sony lithium iron phosphate batteries – the most stable type of battery (see 8 reasons lithium batteries are superior to lead)
- Battery storage options range in number and cost to fit any budget, from the Eco 4 to the Eco 16
- Generates more power than Tesla and LG Chem – 8KW of continuous power compared to less than 5KW for competitors
- Longer life – sonnen batteries can perform 10,000 cycles, compared to just 1200 for Tesla. This means they last far longer even though prices are comparable. A cycle means the battery fills up with energy and then gets used up one time
- Possible access to a sonnen Community
What’s a sonnen Community? If enough homes in an area use sonnen, your stored energy can be pooled with that of others in the community. sonnen’s battery storage systems operate digitally with their exclusive software, which means if one area is generating excess power and another is in need, the area with excess can ‘share’ their power with the area in need. Later in the year, the situation might reverse.
This is an optional service, so you don’t have to join it. But the Community functions as its own power company once enough people join, nearly ridding its members of the need for the old utility.
Here’s a New York Times story about a 2900-home Sonnen Community started in Arizona.
How do you know what size, from Eco 4 to Eco 16, of a sonnen battery system you need?
They recommend deciding by rooms of the house. So you could have an office package, a kitchen package, and a master bedroom package. The idea is to estimate how much power each room uses, and then get the battery storage capacity you would need to keep that room operating.
Find out more about solar battery storage and power outages.