Astrum Solar Blog

Will My Solar Panels Protect Me from Blackouts?

By: Austin Brentley   |  12/22/14

Your solar photovoltaic (PV) panels capture and convert sunshine into clean electricity to power your appliances.

If you’re enrolled in either the net metering or feed-in tariff programs, any excess solar electricity gets fed into the power grid. At night, you simply buy back the energy you require, thus, removing the need to purchase on-site battery storage.

Modern solar installations come equipped with a special safety technologyBut what happens when the power grid fails during the day? If the sun is shining, are your panels still able to generate electricity?

Despite the cleverly-worded marketing that many solar installers use, your PV panels will NOT automatically protect you from daytime blackouts.

But there is a reason behind this.

In the United States, modern solar installations come equipped with a special safety technology that automatically shuts down PV systems during blackouts or power surges.

This safety mechanism serves an important function.

When the local electricity company sends out crews to fix the grid after a major storm, these utility technicians need to know which power lines are active and which are not. If a PV installation is still sending solar electricity into the grid, these panels can create invisible “islands” of dangerous electricity.

This automatic shutdown feature helps to prevent islanding and keep utility crews safe from electrocution.

Is It Possible to Generate Daytime Solar Electricity during Blackouts?

Certain solar inverters come with an override featureAlthough the above safety feature comes standard with most solar installations, it is possible to modify your system so that it still generates usable electricity — even during the middle of a daytime blackout.

Certain solar inverters come with an override feature that lets your system temporarily disconnect from the utility grid whenever a blackout occurs. This technology allows you to continue generating solar energy until the power grid comes back online.

It is possible to purchase this solar inverter as a customized solution. But the cost/benefit really only makes sense for organizations that truly need 24/7 uninterrupted power (i.e. hospitals, military bases, etc.). Even in regions that experience frequent blackouts and power surges, standard micro-inverters are usually sufficient.

What about Protection from Nighttime Blackouts

No solar technology on the market can provide nighttime protection from blackouts.

For this, you would need on-site battery storage or a backup generator if you truly need continuous, uninterrupted power. These investments are best suited for remote properties where grid-connectivity is prohibitively expensive (i.e. cabins or isolated retreat homes).

To learn more about solar power and daytime blackouts, contact us for a free consultation. Our experts are here to answer any questions you have about 24/7 protection from grid failures.

Schedule your free appointment today!