Is There Such a Thing as a Solar Panel Outage?

Imagine you’ve finally invested in a solar photovoltaic (PV) system for your abode. You start generating your “own” electricity, helping you cut back on your energy bills. You also feel a bit virtuous, as you know your green energy system lets you lower your carbon footprint and do your part in fighting climate change.

But one night, a storm came, wreaking havoc on electrical lines.

So, should you feel worried about a solar panel outage cutting off the power to your home, too? Can this even happen if, the following morning, the sun comes out and shines again?

This guide will get to the bottom of those questions, so keep reading.

Is a Solar Panel Outage Possible?

If you have a grid-tied solar energy system, then yes, a power outage that affects the grid can affect your home, too.

A grid-tied solar power system shuts down immediately when it detects no power from the grid. This automatic response, called “rapid shutdown,” is a feature mandated by the NEC (National Electrical Code). It provides a quick way to de-energize solar PV systems to:

  • Prevent dangerous backfeed currents from getting to distribution lines
  • Protect emergency workers from electrical hazards like electrocution

Once the grid returns to safe, normal operations, it goes live again. Your solar energy system should automatically switch back on as soon as it does.

Is There a Way to Prevent Such Outages?

Fortunately, yes. Keeping your home powered during blackouts is possible with innovative solar energy solutions.

Your primary options include solar batteries, generators, specialized inverters, and off-grid or hybrid systems.

Solar Batteries

Solar panels produce the most power during peak sun hours. These are the times when the sun’s intensity reaches about 1,000 watts per square meter. Most states get about four peak sun hours daily, while others, such as Nevada and New Mexico, get at least six hours.

Outside those peak hours, your panels will keep generating electricity, provided the sun’s out. They’ll just produce less than what they do during peak hours.

That’s how a robust solar energy system can generate surplus power.

You can store that excess energy you don’t use immediately in solar batteries. You can then draw this stored power for later use, such as during an outage.

When the power goes out, your solar batteries fire up and send electricity to your appliances and devices. So, with these in place, you can keep your home powered even during a blackout.

Solar Generators

A solar generator is like a traditional generator, except it doesn’t burn gas. Instead, it uses clean energy stored in a battery.

You can recharge a solar generator using the energy your existing system produces. Alternatively, you can buy one with portable panels or allows you to connect separate panels.

Solar generator panels work like those on your roof, harvesting sunlight and turning it into electricity. They then store this energy into their batteries, which you can rely on for later use.

The things a solar generator can power depends on its battery size, but in general, they have limited capacities. Still, you can use them to run small, essential appliances and charge gadgets like laptops and smartphones when the power goes out.

Many solar generators are also portable, letting you bring them on boating and camping trips.

Specialized Inverters

Outages occur not only during stormy days but also during heat waves when the sun is blazing hot.

During such instances, a specialized solar inverter can keep some appliances powered. You can use this instead of the standard inverters in most grid-tied systems.

A specialized inverter automatically disconnects a solar PV system from the grid when it detects an outage. So, it still helps keep emergency workers safe from potential electric hazards. However, it also lets you continue harnessing the sun’s energy even during a blackout by providing “opportunity power.”

You can use that power to supply energy to your TV, smartphones, and small appliances, such as your fridge.

Off-Grid Solar Energy Systems

Off-grid solar systems are stand-alone power stations not connected to the utility grid. They provide ideal solar solutions to homeowners in remote or rural areas with limited access to the grid.

Since these solar systems work independently, problems that affect the grid, such as power outages, don’t affect them. They’ll continue generating power as long as the sun is out and shining brightly.

However, off-grid systems are less common than grid-tied ones as they require more expensive hardware. While having this set up at home means you won’t suffer from a grid-related blackout, you’ll need batteries big enough to store energy for later use. These include at night, during very cloudy or rainy days, and during the shorter days of winter.

Hybrid Solar Power Systems

A hybrid solar installation combines the convenience of a grid-tied system with an off-grid one. First, it lets you use the electricity from your solar panels in real time, just like a grid-tied system.

However, it also has a battery bank that allows you to store surplus power. The latter can feed your home with the energy it needs at night or during a blackout. Therefore, it can further help minimize your dependence on the grid.

At the same time, a hybrid system’s connection to the grid lets you tap it for electricity as needed. An example is when your panels don’t generate enough power due to thick clouds or heavy rains.

A hybrid system, like a fully grid-tied one, also allows you to enjoy net metering. It’s a billing mechanism wherein your utility provider credits you for surplus power you send back to them. You can do this once your solar batteries are full to enjoy even more energy savings.

Keep Your Home Solar-Powered Even During Blackouts

Now you know that a solar panel outage can occur in grid-tied systems; when the grid goes down, so do they.

However, you can counter those grid woes with backup sources like solar batteries, a solar generator, or a specialized inverter. Alternatively, you can opt for a hybrid system to enjoy the best of both grid-tied and off-grid systems.

Regardless of your choice, you can worry less about blackouts while relying less on the grid.

Ready for more home improvement and tech guides? Then, be sure to browse our other blog posts!

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