Will solar panels work during a power outage?


Installing solar power means generating your own FREE electricity and reducing power bills, but will it make you exempt from black-outs?

Electrician working on poles

Unfortunately, most standard grid-connected solar power systems will shut down during power outages and grid failures. When your solar power system shuts down due to these reasons, your household will stop running off electricity, and you’ll experience a black-out.

Many people would think that this is a downfall in grid-connected solar power systems however it is a mandatory safety requirement to prevent your solar power system sending electricity to a damaged grid and risking those who are working on fixing the issues or power-lines.

This safety requirement is referred to as the anti-islanding feature of a solar inverter, and it will automatically switch your solar power system back on, once the grid is back up and running.

solar black out protection

Are there solar power systems with black-out protection?

Off-grid solar power systems are completely disconnected from the grid and are not affected by grid power outages. However, this also means that when an off-grid solar power system has not generated enough electricity, it does not have the grid to rely on as a second source of power.

For this reason, those with off-grid solar power systems are usually rural with large blocks of land, to accommodate for a solar power system and battery storage big enough to cover electricity needs with a surplus to store.

Can grid-connected solar power systems have black-out protection?

As mentioned prior, a standard grid-connected solar power system will shutdown during grid failure. However, some hybrid solar power systems with battery storage can isolate from the grid when detecting voltage drops or grid issues. Once isolated, the hybrid solar power system will rely on its surplus solar power which is stored in the battery. Solar power system setups with the added features of battery storage and black-out protection are expensive in comparison to a standard solar power system, so are usually only recommended if black-outs are a common occurrence in your area.

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Understanding Batteries

Off-Grid Systems

For some households a battery system can be of great benefit and minimise a home’s reliance on the grid. However, it’s important to understand for a battery to be useful your solar system needs to be generating excess energy for the battery to store, which you can then use at night or when the sun is not out.

When selecting a battery, you’ll want to invest in a system that is most suited to your home and can drive the best return on investment (ROI). Despite a larger upfront cost, a higher quality battery may significantly increase your ROI.

    Battery systems start from $6,000 and costs can vary greatly based on the following factors:

  1. Cycle Life-Time

    The number of times a battery can fully charge and discharge.

  2. Battery Power (kW)

    How fast it can be charged or discharged.

  3. Storage Capacity (kWh)

    The maximum amount of energy a battery system can store.

  4. Battery Management System (BMS)

    An electronic ‘smart’ system that gathers data and manages the battery ensuring it does not overload or operate outside of its safe functioning zone..

  5. Inverter

    Battery systems require their own inverter if your solar system does not have a hybrid inverter.

  6. 'All-In-One Unit’

    A system which includes the battery, BMS and an inverter all in one unit.

  7. Warranty

    Length of time or cycles the battery system is under guarantee.

  8. Blackout Protection/Backup

    It’s important to note this is not a common feature of a battery system and could cost thousands of dollars to include. Blackout protection not only requires additional components but also a specialised installation and rewiring. For grid-connected homes, the cost for blackout protection can outweigh the benefit.

Additionally, if your purpose for adding battery is to go Off-Grid and become completely independent from the grid you will need to ensure your solar system can generate enough energy to power your home and your battery system is large enough to store this energy. For homes in metro areas going Off-grid is not cost effective and is only recommended for those in remote areas with limited access to the grid. Off-grid solar systems with battery start at approximately $30,000.

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