Solar & Storage in Blackouts and Brownouts


Electrical blackouts and brownouts can cause major disruptions to business operations. As the recent series of wildfires and accompanying Public Safety Power Shutoff blackouts in California demonstrate, power customers without any backup options are at the mercy of utility companies and natural disasters. Anything from grid maintenance to high winds to periods of higher demand can leave your company without power. Even when the grid does not go completely down, dips in available electricity (called "brownouts") can still impact energy customers. Fortunately, having onsite solar power paired with battery storage systems can help you be prepared if the grid goes down, and we can help you figure out your optimal solution.

What Happens to a Solar System When the Grid Goes Down?

If you have a solar system tied to the grid without islanding capabilities, then your system will need to be shut down during a power outage. Since your panels are still capable of producing electricity, any excess power must be prevented from flowing back into the grid so utility workers can safely work on the power lines. A solar-plus-storage system with islanding capabilities can act as a microgrid and remain online in the event of a power outage. We make sure to abide by all regulations and procedures to ensure the maximum safety and optimal efficiency of the system. The special islanding equipment will help to make sure the utility equipment is protected while the solar and storage can maintain providing energy for your facility in an outage.If your system with battery storage does have islanding capabilities, then it is possible to provide energy backup for critical loads or during a period of time that allows a facility to slow down operations at a measured pace. Solar panels produce electricity while the sun is out, and excess power can be stored in your batteries for later use. For planned outages, you can ensure that the batteries are fully charged beforehand. The amount of time the storage system will last during a blackout will vary depending on the solar system and battery size, as well as the electricity demand, but this setup can make all the difference in a critical situation.

How Does Storage Keep Your Solar System Running?

A solar system with battery storage is also tied to the grid. The solar panels produce energy, and the battery software can decide whether to use it as it is produced or store the energy for later use, such as during an outage. Any excess energy produced when the batteries are already full goes into the grid (for monetizable credits in many states), and if the batteries are depleted and the panels are not producing any energy, then power is drawn from the grid.Battery storage can also be fitted to make a facility truly energy independent for those who want to operate off-the-grid at all times. This requires larger battery storage systems since power from the grid will not be available as a backup, as well as some additional equipment.The Economics of Battery StorageStorage offers increased flexibility for solar users, allowing them to utilize solar energy at strategic times in order to maximize profits. Solar-plus-storage projects can provide customers with significant financial benefits:

  • Peak Shaving: Supplementing the power from the utility with stored solar energy from a battery when the onsite electricity demand is highest. The reduction in peak energy usage decreases demand charges and can help lower the customer’s monthly utility bill.
  • Time-of-Use Arbitrage: Using solar energy generated on site when electricity rates from the utility are highest. With storage, the customer can avoid drawing energy from the grid during periods of high demand for greater savings on their utility bill.
  • Demand Response: Reducing electricity demand at specific times to ease the stress on the grid. Storage and demand response are two complementary approaches to help manage energy distribution across a utility territory: storage focuses on shifting the timing of energy supply and demand response aims to shift the demand side. Demand response programs offer financial incentives to participating customers and, in abating the reliance on high-cost generators during peak periods of demand, can result in lower retail rates for everyone.

These strategies provide attractive financial incentives for solar-plus-storage projects. When a battery is installed to provide outage support, project returns can be significantly impacted. Businesses rely on having dependable energy to operate, and the economic losses for a blackout can be considerable; companies must weigh the value of peace of mind in knowing that their operations will not be impacted by grid power interruptions. By installing an onsite solar system paired with storage, companies can mitigate the losses during both unexpected and planned outages.PowerFlex: Solar-Plus-Storage SolutionsFor more than 10 years, PowerFlex has provided solar and energy storage solutions that help lower energy costs, increase property values, and meet sustainability goals. We can design solar systems with the potential for future battery storage for customers who want to wait on adding storage. Our team manages all aspects of the solar project and works to make the process as simple and seamless as possible. Contact us today for a free solar assessment.