With the Long Island hurricane season right around the corner, the threat of power outages is a growing concern. And keeping power outages in mind, many homeowners considering solar ask the question, “Will my solar system produce energy when there is a power outage?” With a standard solar system, the classical response to this question is no. However, new technology is making powering your home with solar during a power outage more possible. Traditionally if you have solar when the power goes out, your system will shut down in order to protect both your equipment, as well as the utility workers servicing the power grid during an outage.
Why your solar panels won’t work during a power outage
Many homeowners have a difficult time understanding why their solar system won’t function during a power outage, so in order to understand this issue better it is worth examining what is called “anti-islanding.” Anti-islanding is a feature performed by solar inverters that allow them to sense when there is a power outage and shut themselves down in order to protect both your solar equipment and utility workers attempting to restore power. While anti-islanding is a valuable feature for protecting your solar equipment as well as utility workers it also required by the National Electrical Code, but this means that your solar system will be shut down during a power outage even though your panels are making energy. Thankfully, recent technological advances in solar have made it possible to still use some of the power generated by your solar system to power important devices in your home even during a blackout.
Installing a secure power supply
While typical solar systems don’t allow you to power your home during a blackout, new technology from the inverter company SMA now offers the capability to support 3000 watts of “secure power supply.” A secure power supply is essentially an outlet connected directly to your inverter that allows you to use a 3000 watts of the power produced by your solar system during the daylight hours for backup power. While a secure power supply does not produce enough power to keep your entire house running during a blackout, it does allow you to plug in your most important devices such as cell phone, computers, refrigerator and even a microwave.
Currently, SMA inverters are one of the only inverters on the market with the capability to be connected to a secure power supply. In order to connect a secure power supply outlet to your inverter, the help of an experienced solar installer is necessary. While the installation of secure power supplies is increasing in popularity currently many solar companies do not offer their customers with the option to install a secure power supply. In fact, the ability to install a secure power supply with your system is one of the factors that make Greenleaf Solar stand out among other Long Island-based solar installers.
Installing a battery backup system
In addition to the option of installing a secure power supply to help power devices in your home during a power outage, there is also the option of installing a battery backup system. While a battery backup system is significantly more expensive than installing a secure power supply or even a standby generator the cost of solar-specific batteries is dropping. One of most exciting innovations in solar batteries is the Tesla Powerwall which is a sleek high-performance battery manufactured by Tesla Motors that many industry experts believe will make a solar battery backup system much more accessible and affordable to the average homeowner.
While the Power wall has not yet been released to the market, it is expected to become available fall 16’ and is projected to cost roughly $3,000 for a 7 kWh battery unit. If the Powerwall is in fact priced at the project cost of $3,000 for a 7 kWh battery they will be priced at roughly half the cost of current comparable solar battery options on the market. In spite of the excitement surrounding the release of the Powerwall it is also important to keep in mind that unlike a secure power supply solar batteries have a limited lifespan of roughly 10 years, which is notably shorter than the typical 25 year warranty that solar panels and inverters carry and the Powerwall will only produce 1500 watts of power.
Are you ready for solar power?
Ultimately, when thinking about the issue of solar power production during a black out, every homeowner must consider what their individual needs and budgets are. While a battery backup system might be a good option for some homeowners who have the financial capability to invest in it, it is also currently much more expensive than installing a secure power supply, or even a standby generator offers the same benefits of a battery backup system at a fraction of the cost. It should be highlighted that currently, most solar systems do not come with secure power supplies installed, as most solar installers do not offer the option to incorporate a secure power supply into the system. However, with the growing presence of SMA inverters, the installation of secure power supplies are becoming increasingly available.
If you are thinking about going solar and are concerned about having power during a grid outage make sure to ask the solar company you are talking to about the power backup options they offer. GreenLeaf Solar is one of the few companies that is trained and certified to offer all these options and would be happy to send a specialist out to discuss it more.