As long as the sun is shining, your solar panels will continue generating clean energy — even during a daytime blackout. This is one of the primary selling points of solar technology.

But whether or not you can use that energy is an entirely different story — an important detail that many installers omit during their initial sales pitches.

It ultimately depends on what type of solar photovoltaic (PV) set-up you have.

Let’s explore.

Blackouts with Off-grid Solar Power

There are 2 broad categories of solar installations:

  1. Those that are directly connected to the utility grid (i.e. grid-tied)
  2. Those that are not tied to the grid (i.e. off-grid)
  3. Those that are not tied to the grid (i.e. off-grid)

Remote homes and businesses usually fall into this 2nd category since the cost of tying installations to the grid is prohibitively expensive.

The upside of staying off the utility network is that you never experience grid blackouts. Since you’re not connected to the utility network, power failures don’t affect you — whether it’s daytime or nighttime.

The downside is that your solar panels stop working once the sun goes down. So you experience your own “localized” power failure with each and every sunset.

Solar system owners get around this by purchasing onsite batteries that store energy collected during the day for use at night. Although these batteries have the potential to deliver uninterrupted power for remote solar customers, they suffer from certain limitations, including:

  • Cost. Solar batteries aren’t cheap and can dramatically increase the overall price of your installation
  • Capacity. Solar batteries can only store a limited amount of electricity. With enough back-to-back cloudy days, you could be without power

Despite these disadvantages, battery storage is sometimes the only viable option for Maryland homes and businesses that are too remote for grid connection. To learn more about off-grid solar and battery storage, click here.

Blackouts with Grid-tied Solar Power

So can grid-tied solar installations still work once the power network goes down?

It depends.

Grid Failures During the Day

The utility network goes down. But the sun is still shining see this site. What happens to your solar panels?

Well, your panels continue generating energy. But all grid-tied solar installations are required (by law) to automatically turn off in the event of a blackout. This is because utility repair teams potentially risk touching live wires that are still receiving electrical currents from solar installations. These invisible, dangerous pockets of electrical activity are known as “islands.”

In other words, solar systems power down as a safety precaution.

Some Maryland homeowners and businesses get around this by outfitting their solar installations with special inverters. These hybrid systems automatically disconnect from the utility grid but still provide local power.

For example, SMA offers a series of inverters that deliver up to 1500W of continuous daytime power. This is enough to charge most small appliances like computers, cell phones, and Internet routers — the very things you need most during blackouts.

With modern solar PV installations, the safety mechanisms that automatically shut your system off will also turn it back on once the electricity grid is working again.

What happens at night with grid-tied solar installations?

Grid Failures at Night

If the sun goes down, your panels stop working. And when a power failure happens at night, you’ll be without electricity — unless you have both:

  • on-site battery storage
  • specialize inverters (like what SMA offers)

So Are Solar Panels Still Worth It?

Some customers are initially disappointed when they learn their solar panels won’t necessarily provide 100% protection from blackouts. While it’s possible to enjoy uninterrupted power, you may have to make modifications — extra equipment, onsite storage, etc.

But are solar panels still worth it?

Yes. Yes they are.

Blackouts in Maryland are exceedingly rare, with grid failures happening less than 1% of the time. During the remaining 99%, your panels continue greening the planet and reducing your monthly electricity bills.

To learn more about solar installations and blackouts, send us a quick email.