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Here is another common question from our customers: “If you have solar panels and the power goes out, do you still have power?” Well, there are different scenarios. Here is a quick overview of how solar panels work during a power outage.
90% of solar systems in the US are grid-tied
When an electric grid goes down, all solar systems that are connected to it shut off. It’s not the panels’ fault — if it were up to them, they would keep on working. Instead, it’s the inverter that turns off and prevents the modules from powering your home as they were.
On one hand, the inverter protects the panels and your equipment from the damage that the sudden outage may cause them. On the other hand, the inverter prevents the system’s current from flowing into the grid. The power lines must be free of electricity in order for workers to fix them.
When you have a hybrid inverter, it’s a different story. Hybrid inverters are designed to be paired with batteries, as well as connected to the grid. When a power outage happens, a hybrid inverter switches your home to battery support. In an off-grid mode, this inverter keeps solar panels on during power outages and makes them charge the batteries that you have.
Standard grid-tie inverters don’t support DC energy storage at all — for this, you would need a hybrid inverter. However, there are also AC batteries, such as the Tesla Powerwall, which are designed to work with standard grid-tied solar inverters. If you have a grid-tied solar system with a standard grid-tie inverter and an AC battery, the solar system will typically turn off during a power outage but the battery should keep the home powered.
The eventual answer to the question “Can solar panels power a house during a power outage?” depends on what kind of system you have. If you want to learn more about different types of solar installations and how they behave during blackouts, check out our article “When the light goes out: Solar panels and power outages”.
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