Harnessing Solar Power to Beat the Heat: How Solar Panels Provide Energy Independence During Heatwaves

Many of us enjoy the summer months. The kids are home from school. We don’t have to deal with layers of clothing or shoveling snow. It’s time for vacations and lazy days.

But summer has its downsides, namely, the heat and the blackouts that come with it.

Many of us turn on our fans and air conditioners to cool down overtaxing an already heavily taxed energy grid. This leads to blackouts that prevent us from using our precious devices, accessing artificial light sources, and utilizing our necessary appliances.

Fortunately, there is a solution. Solar power provides an independent power source when blackouts occur. Unlike traditional power, the sun works in its favor.

Blackout Statistics

According to the North American Reliability Corp, blackout risk is higher than ever. The Environmental Protection Agency’s recent power plant rule is partly to blame. It prematurely closed power plants in the face of rising electricity demands.

While every state is at risk, Texas, California, the Southwest, and New England are most likely to deal with power loss during the summer of 2024. These states’ electric grids work particularly hard due to an increased adaption of electric vehicles and new data centers.

The current circumstances stem from an issue culminating for some time.  Statistics reveal worsening blackout conditions spanning from 2013 to 2021. The duration of blackouts increased from 3.5 hours to more than seven hours. Frequency went from 1.2 to 1.42 per customer per year.

Unfortunately, these numbers may continue increasing unless drastic measures are taken.

Other Factors that Contribute to Blackout Risk

Global warming is a major blackout risk component. Fossil fuels, deforestation, and farming livestock add greenhouse gases to those that already exist in the earth’s atmosphere increasing the greenhouse effect and climate change. It leads to more hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, and other natural disasters that can cause blackouts.  

Blackouts are also on the rise due to an increased reliance on the electrical grid. Electronic devices are great, but they mean more products are being plugged in. They tax the grid when only a limited amount of energy is available. 

The situation worsens during summer when people rely on fans and air conditioners to cool down. The grid becomes overloaded and blackouts occur.

And blackouts don’t only occur during the summer. People use electric heat in extremely cold temperatures which can also cause a loss of power. 

Blackouts Can Be Dangerous

Blackouts that last an hour or two are an inconvenience. You may miss your favorite TV show or be forced to hold off on returning that email. But longer blackouts can have dangerous repercussions.

Some Americans rely on electric wells for their water supply. Others may need refrigeration to prevent the spoilage of food and important medications. People with limited mobility may also be in danger because they cannot go to another location to access electricity.

How Solar Power Helps During a Blackout

Blackouts are an increased risk worldwide, but you can limit repercussions with solar power. Here are some applications that will get you through power loss situations. 

Solar Panels and Storage Systems

People with solar panels will have an advantage during blackouts. The sun will provide energy during blackouts to keep their homes running. It will allow them to continue using their electronics and appliances.

The solar power generated by panels may not be enough to get you through a blackout. Few panels will produce enough energy to power a home 24/7. That’s where solar batteries come in handy.

Solar batteries store unused energy during the day. The energy can be sourced when new solar power is no longer available. They will switch on to power your home when your solar power supply is exhausted.

Most solar batteries are 10kW. When full, they will power your home for about 24 hours. However, output will vary depending on how much you use.

Solar Generators

Solar batteries are useful in a blackout, but if you don’t have batteries connected to your system, a solar generator is a useful alternative. Like panels, it sources power from the sun to keep your home running. It can be charged with or without solar panels.

A gas generator can also be useful during a blackout, but it has significant downsides. For example, you need gas to run a gas generator. If you don’t have gas in your home, you must go out and purchase it, which may not be so easy during a blackout.

Gas generators are also noisier than solar generators, and they pollute the atmosphere. Solar is a quieter, greener, more convenient option.

Portable Solar Panels

Portable solar panels work just like regular solar panels. They use an inverter to convert DC power into AC power that you can use to power your home.

The panels are smaller than rooftop panels, so they are conveniently portable. However, they don’t hold as much of a charge. They won’t charge your entire home, but they can power some lighting, electronic devices, and appliances.

They are also less expensive than rooftop solar, so they are more accessible.

Portable solar panels offer a unique advantage during blackout situations and other emergencies that go beyond powering homes. They can be transported to emergency pop-up shelters to serve displaced individuals. They provide creature comforts and can run medical equipment that can save lives.

They can be combined with solar generators to power emergency shelters.

Portable solar panels also come in handy for camping trips and other outdoor activities.

Solar Lanterns and Flashlights

Solar lanterns and flashlights won’t power your entire home, but they offer a light source during blackout emergencies. They can help you see in dark spaces when a blackout occurs. Unlike traditional flashlights and lanterns, they don’t rely on a battery which may burn out during a blackout.

What are the Benefits of Solar During a Blackout?
  • Continuous Energy During Daylight Hours: The biggest advantage of solar during a blackout is its ability to provide continuous energy during daylight hours. It allows you to run devices and appliances and connect with others in emergencies. The panels will not provide power when the sun is gone, but batteries can store energy which can be used at night.

  • Cost Savings: The demand for power skyrockets during a blackout. Solar power is free to access. It will save you money in the long run.

  • Eco-Friendly: There are other sources of power you can rely on during a blackout, such as a gas generator, but solar is an eco-friendly solution. It will power your home without creating greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Independence: Solar power helps you maintain independence from the electrical grid. You can rely on your power source, even during a blackout. However, some solar panels are tied to the electrical grid and will not be useful during a blackout. Avoid purchasing a grid-tied system if you live in a disaster-prone area.

How to Use Solar Panels During a Power Outage

Depending on the circumstances, some systems may switch on automatically when a blackout occurs. Others must be activated.

The activation process varies depending on your inverter type, but these guidelines will provide a general outline.

  1. Locate the switch that disconnects your system from the grid. It should be in or near your main breaker box.

  2. Locate the solar breakers in or near the main breaker box and switch them to the on position.

  3. You may need to wait a while before your inverter is fully charged. Once it charges it will be operational.

Grid Tied vs. Grid Connected vs. Off Grid 

Solar panels can provide power during a blackout, but you may have issues if your system is grid-tied. 

A grid-tied system must be tied to the electric grid to operate. It does not have battery backup capabilities. If the grid goes down, the system will not work. 

Consumers who own a grid-tied system use net metering to offset costs. They can sell the solar-powered energy they don’t utilize back to the utility company for credit on their electric bill. 

At the other end of the spectrum is the off-grid system. These systems have very large batteries that store energy that can be accessed when new solar energy is unavailable. Consumers with off-grid systems cannot utilize the electric grid if they run out of energy. 

Grid-connected (hybrid) systems lie somewhere in the middle. They feature two subpanels. One can connect them to their battery systems when they run out of newly generated solar power. Another can connect them to the grid when they cannot access solar power through their panels or batteries. 

Consumers with grid-connected systems may also enroll in net metering, but most will use their batteries to access stored energy rather than sell it back to utility companies. 

A grid-connected system may be the best option for customers who wish to function during blackouts. However, these systems are also more expensive than other solar options. 

Can Solar Energy Prevent Blackouts?

Solar energy is more than a convenient energy alternative during a blackout. It may also prevent blackouts from occurring. Here are some benefits it provides.

Reduces Reliance on the Grid

Solar power decreases reliance on the grid. It makes blackouts less likely to occur. 

Many utility companies offer incentives to customers who go solar to limit electricity use. Although it reduces their revenue, it may be the only option to keep the grid running. 

Addresses Climate Change

Unlike many energy sources, solar panels do not produce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Mitigating the effects of climate change reduces the risk of blackouts and natural disasters. One solar panel installation may not seem like much, but every bit counts.

How Solar America Can Help You Get Blackout Ready

Solar panels help fight climate change, reduce electrical bills, and help you function and stay safe when a blackout occurs. However, there is one factor that prevents many consumers from accessing convenient solar power- cost. Installation can be expensive and out of reach for many households.

Solar America can help you connect with affordable solar companies. Enter your information in our database. It will generate listings of reputable solar providers in your area. Choose the one that best suits your needs.  The competitive system ensures you get the lowest rates.

Contact us for the solar power you need to deal with blackouts and other emergencies. We will ensure you find reliable providers.

"I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. I hope we don’t have to wait till oil and coal run out before we tackle that." - Thomas Edison

"I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. I hope we don’t have to wait till oil and coal run out before we tackle that." - Thomas Edison