The Challenge of a Grid-tied Net-metered Solar Array During a Power Outage
What happens to solar panels that are grid-tied during an outage?
You had 3 whole-house solar reps come out, viewed each their presentations with your spouse around the kitchen table and came up with a decision you’re happy with. The system should have a 9-year payback for your $44k investment on a 12-kWh solar array. Things are going great and you’re heading into summer looking forward to sticking it to the man, and paying only the base charge on your net-metered utility-connected system. Then, a storm hits; power’s out in your area. And, it’s not just out for a few minutes. It’s still not on in the morning after the storm. But wait, you have solar now, so you still have power, right? Unfortunately, wrong. Well, right and wrong. You have plenty of power, since it's a sunny morning. The problem is that it’s not usable, since the utility doesn’t want this excess energy flowing back to the grid where repairs are being made. So, your whole-house net-metered systems will have an anti-islanding inverter which shuts off when the grid goes down. It protects utility workers, as well as your local equipment and utility company remote equipment.
There’s a work around for being shut down using a different higher-end inverter that allows you to store power in local batteries. Good option, but, there goes another +/-$16k for that inverter and batteries (for a +/- 2,000 square foot house).
Airspool has no way to run your whole house (yet—stay tuned) but, at least you’ll be able to stay cool on the hot, sunny days which often follow hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderstorms, or wildfire outages. Oh, and many outages (blackouts and brownouts) are forecasted to happen in the future because of heatwaves! So, with your Airspool unit, you’re in good hands to protect your comfort in situations where you previously had no control.