If I have solar panels, will I still have electricity during a blackout or power outage?

By Chris Boylan


Dear Expert,

If I have solar panels, will I still have power during a blackout or power outage?

-Sam in San Francisco


Hi Sam,

The answer is “it depends.” Solar panels are a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, lower your monthly electricity bill, increase the value of your home and ease the stress from the electrical grid. But whether or not you still have power during a blackout depends on what type of solar power system you have installed in your home.

Grid Tied vs. Off-Grid vs. Hybrid

A standard “grid-tied” solar power system consists of solar panels connected to one or more power inverters. These inverters convert the DC power generated by the panels into AC power that can be used to power your home. In a grid-tied solar system, whatever power you need during the day comes from the solar panels and when you need more, it comes from the grid. If you generate more electricity than you use, then the electricity is fed into the grid for your neighbors to use, and your electricity meter will spin backwards (cha-ching!). When night falls, and your panels stop producing electricity, any power you need comes from the grid.

A grid-tied solar power system was disabled during the blackout to prevent utility workers from being injured if they thought there was no power running through the lines. So if you have a standard grid-tied solar power system, you will have no electricity during a blackout.

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Tesla’s solar roof looks just like a regular roof, but it works like solar panels.

An “off-grid” solar power system combines solar panels with stationary storage (batteries). In an off-grid or standalone solar power system, your solar panels charge batteries during the day, and these batteries power your home at night or on days when there isn’t much sunlight. An off-the-grid solar power system is not affected by grid failures and blackouts, because it is not connected to the electrical grid. But with this type of system, you are limited to only using as much power as you can get from your panels. This can be a problem if you have long periods of cloudy days, long periods of extreme hot or cold weather or you need to drive your electric car more than usual.

As the price of stationary storage continues to drop, another type of solar power system is becoming more popular: grid-tied solar with battery backup or “hybrid solar.” As the name implies, a hybrid solar power system combines the benefits of a grid-tied system with a standalone system for the best of both worlds. With a hybrid solar power system, your solar power system is still tied to the grid, but you have batteries that store the electricity for use any time you need it, such as during a power outage or failure. on the grid.

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If the power goes out, yours won’t be needed, as long as you have a solar power system with battery backup. Photo credit: Tesla

Hybrid solar systems are more expensive than standard grid-tied systems — these large batteries are still not cheap. But some of these costs can be offset by government incentives, depending on where you live. Also, the extra cost can be recouped over time in lower electricity bills. With a hybrid system, your batteries can be recharged not only by solar panels, but also by the grid. Most utilities offer “time of use” plans that offer lower electricity prices during off-peak hours. So if your daily electricity use starts to exceed what your panels can provide, you can charge your batteries at night from the grid when prices are low, and use that cheaply solar power when utility rates are high.

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Stationary storage battery packs like the Tesla Powerwall+ can be installed inside or outside your home, providing lower energy costs and uninterrupted power during outages. Photo credit: Tesla.

Also, having a hybrid system means you have electricity during a black-out or system outage and you don’t need to install an expensive fossil fuel-powered generator for emergencies.

Solar Panels Can Prevent Blackouts

In some cases, homeowner rooftop solar panels not only help the individual homeowner in the case of power outages or excess demand, but they also help the community and prevent a power outage at first. In California, Tesla has enabled their customers who own Tesla solar panels and Powerwall batteries to feed electricity from their local batteries to the grid during times of peak electricity demand.

Solar panels charge the PowerWall’s batteries during the day, and that stored electricity can be fed back into the grid to reduce overall demand. This is a cool solution because it allows homeowners and business owners with robust solar panel arrays and battery storage to become “virtual power plants,” providing instant power. to the grid during times of high demand. This is a new program, still in beta testing. But it has been used and helps prevent blackouts. You can read more about the program in this Business Insider article. It is expected that this capability will expand to more areas over time.

By the way, if you are interested in installing a Tesla hybrid solar power system in your own home, you can get a discount using our referral code. Use this link to order online with referral bonus or use Tesla referral code: Christopher55570.

I hope that answers your question.

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