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Solar Panels and Power Outages: What You Need To Know

solar-panels-and-power-outages

When disaster strikes, alternative power sources like solar can keep your power on even when the grid goes down. Solar panels alone aren’t enough: you’ll need a backup battery storage to stay powered. Let’s find out why and everything you need to know about solar when the power goes out in your neighborhood.

Will Solar Panels Work During a Power Outage?

Solar panels, by themselves, will not work in a power outage because they are grid tied. This means your solar system is wired into your electric company’s grid, giving you the ability to take advantage of net metering. When the power goes out from your electric company due to a natural disaster, routine maintenance, or due to an overload, your panels will also stop producing energy from the sun. This is for safety reasons when the electric company sends utility workers to fix the lines.

And yes, this means solar panels alone will not work during a power outage. 

But wait: there’s more to the story. First, let’s take a look at why power outages happen and why they’re becoming more common.

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Why do power outages happen?

Lightning is the main cause of outages, but other weather related occurrences like heavy winds, rain, snow or ice also could wipe out your power.

Car accidents can also lead to power outages if poles or power lines are damaged.

And if natural causes weren’t enough, your utility company regularly plans routine outages for maintenance. Even one tiny squirrel could wipe out energy for an entire neighborhood!

All these reasons are just regular things. If you live in an area prone to hurricanes or other natural disasters, you know the damage that is caused by being out of power for days, weeks or months. And in the recent years, events that lead to blackouts have been on the rise.

Power outages when you’re grid-tied are a way of life, but there is a way out.  

The Solution: Solar Battery Storage

When you add a solar battery backup to your solar PV system, your lights stay on even when your neighbors are down. There are many benefits of a solar battery like the Tesla Powerwall or Enphase Encharge but one major benefit is that it can power your home during power outages.

Control your own energy by producing it, and the only reliable way to do this for a homeowner like you is with a solar panel system.

Once you have solar panels installed, your home becomes a natural energy-producing goldmine. But wait- that means your home produces energy while the sun is shining. And although the sun produces enough potential energy in 1 minute to power the entire world, your solar panels can only take in so much at one time.

However, all the energy your panels produce during the day could be stored for use at night or during blackouts, for any reason.

The answer to this problem is solar battery storage like Tesla Powerwall.

Read: Is the Tesla Powerwall Worth It?

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Just take a look at an example from one of our customers in Texas during the most recent storm:

2 days in Texas without power; no problem thanks to @gosunpro and @tslamotor for their power wall! Still standing and holding strong! Hoping tomorrow is just as “bright” -@cole40five

solar panels tx outage

Solar Panels and Power Outages in Texas

Solar panels in Texas are a great year round investment. With an average of 205 sunny days, solar panels are a smart investment that can help you reduce your monthly electric bill. According to SEIA, Texas ranks #2 in the nation for solar power, with over 75,000 installations and enough solar power installed in the state to power 642,199 homes.

Sunpro Solar was named the largest residential solar installer in Texas by Solar Power World in 2020. Find out more about going solar in Texas.

Solar Panels Covered in Snow

solar panels and snow

Image by planet_fox from Pixabay

Speaking of outages, what about when it snows? One of the questions that comes up a lot this time of the year is if solar panels work when it snows. You may be surprised to find out that solar panel technology actually works better in the cold. The photovoltaic (PV) technology behind your solar panels is more effective when the temperature is colder. This means any drop in production due to the snow that lands on your solar panels can be offset by this increase in efficiency.

In addition, solar panels quickly shed snow. The panels are designed to strongly absorb sunlight, which means any sunlight they manage to absorb will quickly melt snow and ice. Most solar panels are also mounted on your roof sloped to manage rain, snow and ice conditions. Any snow will melt and slide right off your panels in no time.

Solar Battery Backup System: Do I Need One?

The simple answer is yes. In fact, in this most recent weather catastrophe, Austin Energy recommended homeowners switch to backup power. These days, being connected to the grid isn’t enough. Having solar installed also isn’t enough when disaster strikes. The only thing that can truly protect you and your home’s energy is a home battery backup system like the Tesla Powerwall.

Read more about home battery storage and your options.

Even better news: the Solar Federal Tax Credit includes a battery backup, as well as many local incentives. So basically, there isn’t a better time to invest in backup energy storage.

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Why Solar Energy is More Important Than Ever 

Solar panels are a great way to take control of your home energy. It’s the reason why solar energy has grown 35-fold to an estimated 62.5 gigawatts (GW) today. This is enough capacity to power the equivalent of 12 million average American homes. And Wood Mackenzie forecasts that there will be 3 million installations in 2021 and 4 million in 2023, continuing the swift rise of solar (SEIA).

number of solar PV installations over the years Source: SEIA.org

One of the growing reasons homeowners are switching to solar over fossil fuels is due to the increasing instability in the electric grid. People are starting to “lose faith in their electrical system and take these tiny actions toward making something like energy security for themselves” (via NPR).

The reason for this is simple: natural disasters are increasing at an alarming rate and the old utility grid is producing more power outages than ever before. With the U.S. leading in more power outages than any other developed nation.

 

 

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