How batteries can help avoid blackouts
The power grid in Australia can be unpredictable. With seasonal catastrophes such as storms, heat waves, lighting, and bushfires, many areas experience minor power outages each year.
Falling trees, car accidents, and technical glitches can result in blackouts too. This is probably one of the reasons many homeowners have decided to go solar – thinking that their PV panels will keep their lights on when there is a power disruption.
Here is the bad news: solar panels will not keep the power on when there is a blackout. This is because grid-connected solar systems are required by law to shut down to protect maintenance workers while fixing the grid.
If someone is working on the power lines and the solar power goes live, it could electrocute the person working on the lines.
Thus, even with maximum sunlight, your solar system will not produce electricity until the grid is restored. But here is the good news: solar batteries can keep the power running in the event of a blackout.
How solar battery storage can save you during blackouts
While your solar system will not work in a blackout, a solar battery can.
Backup power functionality
Keep in mind that not all energy storage solutions work during a blackout. Instead, only a solar battery with backup power functionality can supply your home with emergency power during an outage.
Furthermore, the backup functionality cannot power an entire house. It is only capable of keeping the lights on as well as certain power points.
It may be possible to power a whole house with a large-capacity battery system. However, you risk draining it too quickly before switching back to your main solar system.
Emergency energy reserve feature
Another feature that you might find in some systems is the emergency energy reserve which allows you to program your solar battery to reserve a certain amount of energy in the event of a blackout.
For example, you could program your solar battery to use 60% of its capacity at night and 40% during a blackout.
How does blackout protection work?
When the power goes out and you have a solar battery with blackout protection, it will automatically detect the outage and activate blackout mode. Depending on your battery brand, this process can range from a few seconds to a few minutes.
Different solar batteries also have varying load capacities. For example, some batteries can discharge up to 7kWs during a blackout while smaller ones may only offer around 2.5kWs – enough to power just a few circuits in the house.
If you are adding a solar battery to your solar panels, talk to your installer about blackout protection. In addition, you need to identify which circuits are most important to back up before you decide to buy solar batteries.
Remember, not all solar batteries have blackout protection. If this feature is essential to you, be clear that you want a solar battery with this function.
How long do solar batteries last during a blackout?
Let’s say the power goes out and your solar battery switches to backup mode. How long will the battery last until the grid is back online?
The answer depends on how much energy was stored in the battery when the power went out. It will also depend on which circuits you have connected to the battery and how much power each outlet consumes.
To determine how long your battery will last during a blackout, consider these factors:
- Battery capacity: How much power can your solar battery store?
- Blackout protection: Do you have blackout protection for the entire house or just for certain electrical devices?
- Appliances: How many and what electronic devices are running on solar batteries? Are they energy-efficient or power-guzzlers?
- Remaining energy: How much energy was stored in your battery when the grid went down?
Powering your home in remote locations.
When your solar panels produce excess energy, this surplus gets stored in the solar batteries for later use. You can access this stored energy during cloudy days, at night, or during a blackout when your panels are not generating enough electricity.
The cost of solar batteries depends on several factors, such as storage capacity, type of battery, and where you are located.
If you live in an area where power outages are a common recurrence during the year, you should consider rationing your solar energy and only use electricity for things you need.
Move to an off-grid solar system.
If blackouts are frequent in your area, a more permanent solution is to move your power source to an off-grid solar system.
Off-grid solar systems are basically a more sophisticated type of solar battery array. They store surplus solar energy in multiple batteries to power your entire home for long periods. The system is so-called off-grid because you totally disconnect your home from the power grid to avoid blackouts completely.
While off-grid solar systems are a fantastic solution for those who want to be independent of the grid, setting it up can be extremely expensive. Depending on the size location of your home and your appliances, you could quickly exceed $20,000 for a standard off-grid home in Australia.
If you live in a genuinely remote part of the country or an area where power outages are a recurring theme, an off-grid system may be worth it.
Types of solar battery systems
There are two main types of solar battery systems: off-grid and hybrid.
1. Off-grid solar power systems
As the name suggests, off-grid systems are not connected to the power grid; instead, you rely on solar power for all your electricity needs. As a result, you may need a backup generator when the sun does not shine.
An off-grid solar system is your most viable choice if you live in a remote area where connecting to the grid can be costly.
2. Hybrid solar power systems
In a hybrid system, your solar system is still connected to the power grid. However, your home will first consume solar energy stored in your battery.
Then, if there is excess solar energy and your battery is full, the surplus will be sent back to the grid.
One important thing to remember: make sure your solar system has a hybrid inverter that allows your battery to charge during a blackout. Otherwise, you would not have any power if your battery drains and the grid is not yet back on.
Check out JPAC’s products and services today.
In Australia, power outages are minor and can be quickly fixed. But if you have appliances that you cannot afford to lose power – such as modems and routers in work-from-home setups – then you should consider building an energy storage system.