Will your solar power system protect you from power cuts?

Power Cut 17-02-2007 00-45-52
Creative Commons Licensephoto credit: Glen Bowman

I get asked this question a lot.

Unfortunately the short answer is: No – A standard grid connect solar system will not protect you from blackouts.

Kind of counter intuitive isn’t it? You go to the trouble and expense of your own little solar power station, and then you have no power if the electricity grid goes down.

The reason that a standard grid connect system can’t operate when the grid is down is this: Safety.

1) Safety of the workers fixing the electricity grid. Imagine that the grid goes down and the sparky climbs up a local power pole to fix the offending transformer or wire. Now imagine that there are a number of homes in the street all merrily feeding power back into the grid from their solar panels. Your sparky is gonna get one hell of a shock!

2) Safety of the grid hardware. When the grid infrastructure detects a fault, the transformers and other equipment on the grid shut down for their own protection. If you then force electricity into them from your solar system, you could destroy that equipment.

So just be aware that, unless you spend 2 to 3 times as much on a specialist battery backup and safety switching system, then your solar system will not protect you from blackouts.

It will still protect you from ever-rising electricity bills though!

About Finn Peacock

I'm a Chartered Electrical Engineer, Solar and Energy Efficiency nut, dad, and founder of SolarQuotes.com.au. My last "real job" was working for the CSIRO in their renewable energy division.

Comments

  1. Grid electricity will be cut off as a wildfire approaches, as will one’s grid-connected solar system. This leave people on tank water with electric pumps without water.
    Is it possible to have a switch that the home and solar owner can use to isolate their solar system from the grid under such circumstances. i.e. have their solar power going to their home only, and not back into the grid until the emergency is over and the grid repaired.

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