SOLAR POWER AS BACKUP POWER
Storage. The next breakthrough in solar.
BACKUP POWER YOU CAN USE TODAY.
Solar is an excellent resource not only for everyday power but also for backup power. Imagine that in the event of a power outage due to inclement weather or a major disaster, you could count on the most reliable source of power—the sun—without fail! There’s no public power source that’s as dependable.
The sun rises every day and can recharge batteries even when a disaster has shut down other sources of power. The power goes out most often in the Pacific Northwest on dark and stormy days. However, batteries connected to solar power can get you through one or several days without the grid, depending on the size of the system and sun exposure.
Grid-tied solar, doubling as a backup power source, has many advantages:
- You get to use your investment everyday, not just when the power goes out.
- There are no messy, toxic, dangerous fuels to store or replenish over time.
- There’s no routine maintenance necessary to remove or burn and replace spent fuel.
GRID-TIED SYSTEMS: WITH OR WITHOUT BATTERIES?
The vast majority of solar systems currently being installed throughout the world are grid-tied systems without batteries—in other words, any excess power generated over and above what your home or building consumes goes back into the grid, rather than being stored on-site in batteries. However, that is changing as the industry and consumers recognize the enormous potential for storing the sun’s unlimited energy.
Many industry players are working aggressively to bring the price of battery storage down to a level that is affordable. A major advocate for this is Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla Motors. In 2015, Tesla announced the release of its battery backup system, the PowerWall, in both a 10-kWh and 7-kWh configuration.
The Powerwall gives users the flexibility to store surplus solar energy when it’s generated, then later draw that energy from their own battery reserves. The battery pack hangs on your garage wall, and connects directly to your solar inverter.
One PowerWall will run a few critical circuits in your home for a day without sunlight. Critical circuits typically include things like lights, plugs and a refrigerator. You can stack them to get more power, so as prices go down over time, you can add more coverage affordably.
More robust (and also more complex and expensive) battery backup systems such as the Outback Radian paired with larger PV systems will produce enough power to run critical loads in your house for a few days, even in winter.
This is an emerging market and industry that we’re keeping a close eye on, and we plan to be on the leading edge of solar storage and Puget Sound’s premier Powerwall/Solaredge/Tesla installer.
We believe battery storage is a practical, powerful benefit of solar in addition to its day-to-day efficiencies. And we believe that solar will eventually replace generators as a far safer, cleaner and more efficient backup solution.
WHY SOLAR BEATS GENERATORS
In addition to the clean, reliable advantages of solar as a backup power source, consider these disadvantages of conventional emergency power backup solutions:
Diesel and gasoline generators provide a limited amount of power (depending upon the size of the generator)—and only for as long as the fuel source remains available. In the event of a widespread and/or long-term power outage, replenishing fuel could be difficult if not impossible.
One of the trickiest challenges with diesel and gasoline generators is fuel storage. Fuel degrades over time, requiring it to be used and/or replenished. As a homeowner or building manager, you must fire up the system to burn through the fuel, and then replenish it—which is wasteful, toxic, and costly.
In addition, storing highly volatile fuel in a home or commercial storage area can present a real safety concern. In the event of an emergency such as an earthquake, spillage creates a deadly fire risk.
Since their fuel supply is fed by a public utility, natural gas generators eliminate the spillage risks presented by diesel and gasoline. The downside, of course, is that if the natural gas supply is interrupted—which is extremely likely in a serious emergency or major disaster—that generator is rendered useless.
A backup generator—as well as the fuel that needs to be cycled through it—is fairly expensive. And since it only serves one purpose (whose time may or may not come), it’s a large price to pay for something you may never use.
Conversely, solar paired with a battery storage solution is clean, safe, efficient, and cost-effective. Best of all, you get to use it, enjoy it and make a difference with it every day—AND it’s there for you in an emergency.
In the event that “the Big, Big One” (the 9.0 earthquake for which Seattle is overdue, based on some pretty compelling science) hits, solar could prove to be a lifesaver. Sure, it’s possible that in some highly-impacted locations, homes could be affected such that solar array itself is compromised. But your solar system’s got better odds than your diesel generator! If your system does survive the shaking, you’re set—the sun won’t run out. Diesel will (if it doesn’t spill everywhere and start a fire first!)