Solar Panels - Emergency Considerations

 While not a typical utility, solar panels are becoming cheaper and more common. 

Rooftop solar panels. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Photovoltaik_Dachanlage_Hannover_-_Schwarze_Heide_-_1_MW.jpg AleSpa, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Many people who have solar panels are hoping to have at least a measure of energy independence. Some go solar wanting to reduce their carbon footprint and help the environment. In some municipalities excess solar power can be sold back to the power company, where you get a bill credit.

Whatever the reason for going solar, it's not uncommon for most people to assume that just because they have solar panels they will have power if the event of a power outage, such as during a natural disaster.

Depending on the system, the answer is "it depends." 

The solar panels may provide power during daylight. Unfortunately, if the solar panel system doesn’t have a battery storage system it won't provide power during the night or when there isn't enough sunlight. If the system doesn't have a battery storage system, it probably won’t be a very reliable source of power in an electrical grid outage, if it even provides power.

While solar panels are awesome, even with a battery storage system they aren’t a guarantee you’ll have electricity in a grid failure after an earthquake or other natural disaster. If you have solar panels you need to be aware that they, along with their systems, can be damaged in an earthquake or other natural disaster.

If you have solar panels, I strongly advise you talk to your solar panel professional about what you should check for to ensure safe operation after an earthquake or other disaster. Some of the things you should be looking for include broken panels, loose connections, damaged wires, and fallen or damaged batteries.

Should you be considering the purchase of solar panels, be sure to ask about what needs to be done and checked in the event of an emergency. And, make sure you get the batteries so you're more likely to have power when the electrical system is out.

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