Solar Panels in Rolling Blackouts
With increasing electricity demand, grid blackouts are becoming more common. While electricity can be returned to customers through backup power generation, some communities may not have electricity for lengthy periods of time. Solar panel production can help mitigate the impacts of blackouts by providing power during outages.
Understanding Solar Panels
Solar panels work by using semiconducting materials that when exposed to photons of sunlight, release electrons and create an electric charge. There are various types of solar panels and those that are primarily used are monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin film. Solar energy can be beneficial as it is a sustainable source that is of great abundance. Solar energy systems reduce reliance on fossil fuels which helps to mitigate carbon emissions. While the upfront cost of a solar installation can be costly, the long term cost benefits of saving on utility bills helps payback the investment and generate savings long term.
Solar Panels as a Reliable Power Source in Blackouts
During grid blackouts, solar panels are about to provide electricity to your loads depending on the type of system you have installed. Grid-tied systems are not able to produce electricity during a power outage as inverters are programmed to automatically turn off to prevent electricity from being sent to the grid while utility workers are operating on powerlines. Hybrid systems that incorporate battery storage as well as off-grid solar systems are capable of providing electricity to your electrical needs during blackouts. Battery backup (hybrid) systems are a viable option for continuous power supply. Excess electricity generated by your system can be used to charge batteries that can then be used as a power source during a grid blackouts.
The Role of Solar Panels in Community Resilience
Community solar is an alternative energy source that can help contribute to community resilience during grid blackouts. In case of emergency, solar panels are capable of being a power supply to critical loads. This can bring peace of mind to individuals who have certain needs to be met that are eliminated when the grid goes down. Residents of Louisiana are no strangers to inclement weather including hurricanes and tornadoes that shut down the grid for multiple weeks, leaving many without power. Local organizations were able to implement mobile hybrid solar energy systems to provide energy to communities during power outage crises.
Overcoming Challenges and Limitations
Although solar panels are capable of providing power during outages, challenges can present themselves such as: reduced sunlight or damaged panels. Energy storage can help combat these challenges as electricity produced prior to the outage can be used to charge the batteries and supply loads when outages occur. Microgrid systems are solar energy systems that are able to produce electricity, store it and distribute it to areas of the grid. They can be used in areas where there is no grid power or are often applied to areas that experience frequent blackouts. To combat the challenges that come with blackouts, ongoing research and technological advancements to improve solar panel performance will further the reliability of solar energy systems.
Government Policies and Incentives
Government policies and incentives aid in the promotion of solar energy adoption. The 30% tax credit drastically reduces the cost of implementing a solar energy system, making solar energy options more attractive and affordable. Many different states, counties and municipalities offer rebates and other incentives for solar energy technology implementation. The Department of Energy is a great start to look into what incentives can be used to install your solar energy system. With governmental support, solar panel use during blackouts is encouraged.
During grid blackouts, solar panels are capable of supplying power to meet electrical needs. Although incentives are already in place, it is important for individuals, communities and policymakers to take advantage of and expand upon implementing solar energy as a resilient power source. Solar energy has the potential to revolutionize the energy landscape in blackout-prone areas.