Many of those in Puerto Rico who invested in solar power with battery backup ended up sailing through the recent hurricane and subsequent power outages that affected the entire island. In the past, when the power went out, people had to rely on a backup generator, but those early adopters of solar with battery backup ended up much better off.
Public Radio International (PRI) told the story of a young family’s decision to buy battery storage with their solar investment and their experience during the hurricane. They had invested early on in battery storage so that they did not need to rely on a generator if power was ever lost.
Wait, I have solar but no batteries. Will power run during a power outage?
No, solar without battery storage does not continue to run during a power outage. Simply put, solar requires a connection to a live utility to provide power. In the absence of a live utility, it shuts down.
Why? Safety! Solar connects to the utility grid and, if allowed to continue to produce energy during an outage, it will energize the utility lines and create a danger for workers desperately trying to restore your power.
There are limitations to battery backup.
Think of your battery system as a bathtub that fills with water (energy). Because it is expensive, you want a bathtub that isn’t too large but rather just big enough to meet your needs. You also just want to use your bathwater for what is important because there are limits to how much water you can store. Generally, we separate out the electrical loads that are critical to your house so that we don’t use up your stored energy (think bathwater) on things you don’t absolutely need. That typically may include refrigeration for your food, a pump for water and some lighting to get by at night. The assumption is that you will eventually get utility power back, and this system is sized to carry you over in the interim.
Educate, understand and decide.
Consider if you need battery storage with your solar. Weigh the benefits and cost and understand the limitations. A battery-backed system can be a lifesaver in areas where frequent outages occur.
By: Dan Williams
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