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What Happens to My Solar Energy If Power Goes Out?

Solar Array - Day Before the Storm

Solar Array minutes after after a direct hurricane hit
Courtesy of WashingtonPost.com

As much of the east coast faces a hurricane warning this weekend, one of the questions many people considering a solar PV installation often ask is: Will my power go out when the rest of the neighborhood loses power, such as in the event of natural disasters, downed power lines, blackouts, brown-outs, etc?

If you have a grid-tied solar PV system, which is highly recommended, your power will go out when the rest of your neighborhood goes down. But there’s not many precautions you need to take to secure your solar arrays in the event of an impending storm. According to Kellie Walsh from Mercury Solar Systems, Inc., based in Port Chester, NY, the engineered racking system that secures the panels to the roof can actually withstand winds up to 120 mph in Long Island. “We hire an independent engineering firm who does a structural and wind analysis on each home/business as part of the engineering review.”

All in all, the benefits — financial and otherwise — of being tied to the grid far outweigh this small drawback.

Here’s how it works:

Your solar PV array generates electricity when the solar panels on your roof (or elsewhere) catch the sun’s rays and begin generating DC electricity. The solar system inverter converts that electricity into 120V AC power, which is fed to your electric meter.

From there, it powers your appliances. Once you’re generating enough power to run everything you need in your home, the rest of the power generated is fed to the electric company. (Net metering — you can actually see your meter spin backwards as you collect energy credits!) All of this is automatic. You don’t have to tell the power where to go. You don’t have to think about it at all.

At night, of course, your solar panels stop producing energy because there’s no sunlight. This also happens on cloudy days, days when snow is covering your solar panels, or any time there’s another obstruction that keeps your panels from getting sunlight. At these times, your home gets its electricity straight from the grid. If you’ve already fed power into the grid when your solar array was running, this electricity isn’t actually costing you anything.

Benefits of Grid-Tied Solar Energy

A grid-tied solar system is:

- Safe, because it doesn’t use any corrosive batteries to store power
- Cost-effective, again, because you’re not paying for batteries and you’re saving money on your electric bills
- Better for the environment, because no batteries need to be manufactured or disposed of.

Want to learn more? Get a customized report about solar now.

Post Written by
A full-time freelance writer, Dawn frequently covers energy efficiency, green living, and topics like LED lighting and whole home control systems for a number of blogs and technology trade magazines. Dawn is proud to live in New York as the state vies to beat out New Jersey as the East coast top dog of solar energy and is waiting for the Solar Renewable Energy Certificate legislation to pass before installing solar panels on her Long Island home.

1 Comment

  1. [...] as the hurricane approaches is dealing with downed power lines and power outages. Unfortunately, your solar system will not come to the rescue — you will experience a power outage just as everyone else if your area is affected. Almost all [...]