Will Solar Panels Work During a Power Outage?

Find out if your solar panels can power your home during a blackout. Learn about grid-tie limitations and how battery storage or hybrid solar can provide backup power.
solar panels during power outage

Australia, the land of sunshine, is a natural fit for solar energy. With many homes embracing solar panels, a common question arises: will solar panels in Australia keep the lights on during a power outage? The answer, unfortunately, is not a simple yes or no. Let’s delve deeper into why and explore options for keeping your home powered up during a blackout.

Why solar panels don't power your home during a blackout (grid-connected systems)

Most Australian homes with solar panels have a grid-connected system. This means your solar panels generate electricity, which is then used to power your home. Any excess energy gets fed back into the main electricity grid, and you receive credits on your power bill. However, this grid connection becomes a safety concern during a power outage.

Here’s why your solar panels won’t function during a blackout:

  • Safety for utility workers: When power lines are down, utility crews must work on them safely. Feeding electricity back into the grid during a blackout poses a serious risk to their safety. Grid-connected solar systems are programmed to disconnect automatically to prevent this.
  • System protection: Blackouts can cause voltage fluctuations. The system disconnects from the grid to protect your inverter and other electrical equipment from damage due to these fluctuations.

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With our 3 free solar quotes, you can compare plans from pre-qualified and vetted installers in your area and find the perfect solution for your home and business. Harness the sun’s power and save money on electricity bills while reducing environmental impact. Let Energy Matters guide you towards a brighter, more sustainable future.

Battery backup: Turning the sun's power into blackout resilience

The good news is that you can achieve power independence during outages with battery storage and hybrid systems integrated with your solar panels.

Battery storage system

These systems add batteries to your grid-connected solar setup. During the day, your panels generate electricity used in your home and can also charge the batteries. In a power outage, the inverter can switch to using the stored solar energy in the batteries to power your home, at least for essential appliances.

Use our easy-to-use solar power and battery storage calculator to determine the size of your solar system with storage! Our solar calculator will generate performance information and potential savings. 

We can send this information to 3 of our pre-vetted and trusted local installers in your area to receive obligation-free solar quotes.

Hybrid inverters

These inverters are designed to work with both solar panels and a battery bank. They offer more flexibility than standard grid-tied inverters. During a blackout, the hybrid inverter can prioritise using solar energy if available, switch to battery power, and draw power from the grid (once it’s restored) if necessary.

solar panels during power outage

Things to consider with battery backup and hybrid systems

  • Cost: Adding batteries and a hybrid inverter significantly increases the initial cost of your solar system.
  • Battery capacity: The size of your battery bank determines how long you can power your home during a blackout.
  • System design: A qualified solar installer can design a system that meets your needs for backup power during outages.

Additional factors to keep in mind:

  • Islanding protection: This safety feature built into solar inverters ensures the system disconnects from the grid even if a small amount of voltage is detected during a blackout, further protecting utility workers.
  • Future regulations: While current regulations in Australia mandate disconnection during blackouts, there’s an ongoing discussion about potentially allowing some grid-connected systems with advanced safety features to operate in “islanding mode” during outages. However, this is yet to be a reality.

Beyond blackouts: Benefits of solar power

Even though solar panels might not directly power your home during a blackout (without battery backup), they offer numerous advantages:

  • Reduced electricity bills: Solar energy helps you generate clean power, reducing your reliance on the grid and potentially lowering your electricity bills.
  • Increased property value: Homes with solar panels are often seen as more attractive to buyers, potentially increasing your property value.
  • Environmental benefits: Harnessing the sun’s power reduces your carbon footprint and creates a cleaner environment.

Choosing the right backup option for you

The ideal backup solution depends on your budget, electricity needs during outages, and frequency of blackouts in your area.

  • Occasional short outages: If you experience short blackouts infrequently, a microinverter system suffices to power some essential appliances.
  • Frequent or extended outages: For areas prone to longer outages, a battery storage system with islanding capability offers the most reliable backup power from your solar system.
  • Combined needs: You can explore a hybrid solution with battery storage and a backup generator for comprehensive outage protection.

Consulting with a qualified solar installer is crucial to understand your options and choose the backup system that best suits your needs and budget.

solar panels during power outage

The future of solar and blackouts

The good news is that advancements in solar technology are paving the way for a more blackout-resilient future. Here are some promising trends:

  • Smarter inverters: Newer inverters with advanced features might offer islanding capability even in grid-connected systems, potentially eliminating the need for separate battery storage.
  • Off-grid system: While less common in Australia, off-grid is an option for those who want complete independence from the electricity grid. Off-grid systems rely solely on solar panels and batteries, requiring a larger battery capacity to sustain power needs. However, they require careful planning and significant upfront investment and may only suit some locations or lifestyles.
  • Virtual Power Plants: Virtual Power Plants (VPPs) allow homeowners with solar and battery systems to connect and collectively sell excess power back to the grid during peak demand periods. These VPPs can provide backup power to participating homes during outages, creating a more resilient energy grid.

Looking to save extra with your Sungrow, GoodWe or Tesla Powerwall 2 installed solar battery*? Origin and Energy Matters have teamed up to provide customers with an additional way to save and make money!

Join Origin Loop VPP as an Origin electricity customer and earn a $400 bonus! Earn $1/kWh during peak demand by letting them draw on your battery-stored solar energy. 

You’ll also enjoy a 13 c/kWh feed-in tariff^ and enjoy full transparency through the Origin app. No lock-ins; leave anytime, and your yearly energy export is capped at 200kWh. Win-win for you and the grid!

If you already have solar and a battery*, then sign up today! If you don’t, get up to 3 obligation-free quotes by getting in touch with us right away. 

*Your battery must be eligible to participate. | ^Feed-in tariff rates are subject to change at any time. All FIT amounts include GST where applicable.

Solar power and blackouts: Friend or foe? The verdict

Solar panels are a great way to generate clean energy and reduce your reliance on the grid. However, standard grid-connected systems won’t provide backup power during a power outage. Adding a battery storage or hybrid system to your solar setup allows you to harness the sun’s power even when the grid goes down. While battery systems come with an additional cost, the benefits of blackout protection, increased self-consumption, and potential cost savings can make them worthwhile.  

Ultimately, the best solution for you will depend on your budget, energy needs, and desired level of energy independence.  Consulting with a qualified solar installer can help you determine the best options to meet your requirements.

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To find out how much a solar system with storage or even an EV charger will cost, try our easy-to-use solar power and battery storage calculator! It will generate performance data and possible cost savings. 

We can forward your information to 3 trusted local installers in your area to obtain free, no-obligation solar quotes.

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