Storm Season is Here: Energy Storage Can Help You Prepare
In Southern and Eastern parts of the U.S., late summer and fall not only signals the start of college football; it also marks the beginning of storm season. Homeowners in these regions are no strangers to preparing for storms, from trimming tree branches that are too close to windows to storing water and food in case of an emergency.
Adding energy storage capabilities to your solar home offers another way to prepare for storm-related power outages. The right storage system can keep your appliances running if the grid is down. Solar storage solutions provide peace-of-mind that your family and home can have power, no matter what's happening outside.
Energy storage on the rise
If you are considering adding energy storage to your PV system, you're in good company. With the prospect of regular storms and increased outages, homeowners and businesses alike are considering how to add more resiliency to their power sources.
Consider that residential and commercial energy storage is on the upswing. GTM Research reported that solar-related energy storage accounted for about 4 percent of distributed PV systems in 2018, and they forecast that will reach 23 percent by 2023, according to energy.gov.
Utilities, too, are exploring how to maintain service during storms and reduce outages. Many are exploring a combination of smart-grid technology, additional energy storage and moving transmission lines underground. For the homeowner, of course, the latter is usually cost-prohibitive and not something you can do on your own. A solar-plus-storage setup allows you to create a source of backup power in a way that makes sense for your home and budget.
What happens to PV systems during a storm
While installing a home solar system ensures that your home gleans its energy from the sun and not your public utility, you're not able to use your solar energy during an outage without some sort of storage system. That's because your photovoltaic (PV) system requires an inverter to convert the energy collected from the solar panels so that it's usable by your appliances.
In most cases, your inverter will shut down if there's a widespread grid outage. This is primarily to keep your home from putting power back onto the grid while utility workers may be working on it. There are some specialized inverters that will keep transferring power to your home during an outage. Even so, they only work during the day, when the solar panels are collecting energy.
An energy storage system can help you sidestep storm-related outages by allowing you to store solar energy in batteries for later use. In the event that a storm knocks out your power, you'd be able to run essential appliances, depending on your storage capabilities, and have power during the day and night.
The notion of having power while the grid is down during a storm is certainly comforting from a convenience perspective. You don't lose all the contents of your fridge. You can keep your cell phones and computers charged in order to monitor the situation and call for help if necessary. But it becomes even more critical for people who need the power to stay alive and well. Perhaps they rely on a respirator or need to keep necessary medication refrigerated.
In these cases and more, an energy storage system can truly save the day. The first step toward adding an energy storage system is to work with an experienced contractor to estimate how much storage you'll need. For reference, the average U.S. residential utility customer uses about 28 kWh per day.
However, most storage systems come in a set size and offer a specific amount of storage. You'll want to determine whether to purchase a system that is close to your needs or perhaps under if you're comfortable storing a small amount of energy. In the case of a storm outage, you may just need enough power to keep your refrigerator running and phones powered up.
Once you find the right system, a qualified contractor should install it to ensure your system is connected properly with your solar panels. Then you can set it and forget until you need it. And with regards to potential outages caused by storms, that hopefully won't be often.