One of the most frequently asked questions in the solar world is, “what happens when the grid goes down?” Well, it depends. In this blog we’ll be looking at the relationship a solar system has with the grid, and how to be prepared for when the power goes out. Solar energy is the only energy that can outlast a grid shutdown, but there’s an element that must be a part of your system.
99% of all the systems in the U.S are tied to the grid. It's a good thing too, because the sun isn't always shining. By having a grid-tied system, the system owner can take advantage of the sun’s energy during the day, and get energy from the grid at night. This does mean that as soon as the sun goes down though, the homeowner pays the electric company per watt to use its energy. The system owner does however, get credits with the grid. This means that when the sun is up and no one's in the house, the grid is taking the power the system makes and using it. They essentially “give back” the power you didn’t use during the day when you get home at night. While this does reduce the electric bill, it doesn’t give the possibility of eliminating it. It also doesn’t give the system owner any stored energy in the event that the grid did go. Without these elements, the owner isn't exactly maximizing on their investment. Ideally, the system owner wants a system that is protected from the uncertainty that comes from the grid. These uncertainties include shutdowns, as well as shifting utility prices.
Enter The Battery
If your system has a battery, you can keep the lights on when the grid goes down.The battery holds solar energy in preparation for a grid shutdown, and when the shutdown comes, the battery will give you roughly 10 kwh’s of energy (households use an average of thirty in a day). In years past, the only pitch that solar had to sell you a battery was for when the grid went down. If the only incentive for a $10,000 battery is power when the grid goes down, and it only goes down twice a year, the battery has little worth. Now batteries give the system owner energy in the event of a shutdown, and they also hedge the system owner from fluctuating utility prices. The electric company does not sell energy at the same price all the time, and so the battery can strategically give the system its reserve energy during peak times (when the electric company charges more). This way, the owner doesn't pay for energy they already have.
(Solar System Storage:These are the brains and battery that capitalize your investment and maximize your efficiency.)
More On The Grid And The Battery
The grid has a time slot in every day for about five hours. These hours are the peak hours, and they happen from 3-8 Pm everyday. This is the same time that most homeowners start getting home, cooking, turning lights on, etc.. During these peak hours, the electric company charges the homeowner more for electricity than the other nineteen hours in the day. This is a smart move for them. If you’re using more energy in the peak times than you’re solar system is catching, then you start tapping into the grid, and then paying those high electric prices for your energy.
The smart move for you is to own a battery. If the system owner has a battery, they can program it to expend its reserved energy (as it’s needed) throughout the peak times. This way, if it’s 5:30 in the wintertime (sunset), and everyone’s at home using energy, the system is working off the battery and not the grid.
With a battery, the homeowner beats the grid in every way. The homeowner will have electricity when the grid goes down, and will have it when the prices for the grid go up. This way, the solar owner can maximize on their investment and experience clean and renewable energy.