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  • Writer's pictureJosh Taylor

Why Your Solar Panels Might Not Save You During a Blackout

In the age of green energy, a growing number of San Diego homes have turned to solar power. But did you know that even if your home runs on solar, it could still be vulnerable during heavy storms? When San Diego Gas and Electric decides to shut off parts of the grid during such conditions, most solar-powered homes aren't immune to the power loss.

The Safety Behind Solar Systems and Grid Shutdowns

The reason for this vulnerability? Safety. As Wagner mentions in an email, "Standard grid-connected solar systems are designed to switch off during unplanned outages. This prevents unexpected energy from flowing into the power line as it undergoes repairs." In simple terms, while your rooftop solar might be efficient on sunny days, it's practically rendered inert during grid shutdowns—unless, of course, it's connected to a backup battery.

Understanding Rooftop Solar Functionality

Here’s a basic breakdown of how rooftop solar functions:

  1. The sun’s rays hit the photovoltaic cells of a solar panel.

  2. Instantly, this energy is converted into electricity.

Interestingly, while San Diego boasts a higher number of rooftop solar installations than any other Californian region, most of these systems still connect to the shared statewide energy grid.

Can Your Solar System “Island” During Outages?

Certain advanced solar systems can "island" or continue to function during power outages, providing energy to some or even all household appliances. If you’re considering solar or already have it, it's a good idea to consult with your contractor about this feature.

The Financial Incentives of Grid-Connected Solar Systems

While there are downsides to a grid-connected solar system in terms of power outages, it remains the most economical rooftop solar option. Moreover, there's a financial incentive: homeowners can sell any excess solar energy their homes or vehicles don't consume back to the grid. This process, known as net energy metering, is popular, with almost 90% of solar owners in California participating, as per data from the California Public Utilities Commission.

Going Off-Grid: The Battery Solution

For those who desire uninterrupted power, going off-grid might be the solution. However, this typically involves investing in large batteries that can sustain a home overnight or during cloudy days. These batteries don't come cheap, costing thousands of dollars.

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