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7 New Ways that Homeowners Who Own Solar Panels Can Deal With Power Outages at Night

Have you installed solar panels in your home but always experience blackouts when you get home at sundown?

According to the Report of the Basic Energy Sciences Workshop on Solar Energy Utilization, the world’s demand for energy is expected to double by 2050 and triple by the end of this century.

The sun is an amazing source of energy and has been ideal in producing free and easily accessible electricity. Advancements in technology have made it possible to use solar energy to generate electricity using photovoltaic systems (PV). This electricity is then used in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors.

One amazing fact about solar panels is that they are extremely useful during the day when the sun is shining, but at sundown, they can be quite useless.

So, while engineers are building solar panels that are cheaper and more efficient to soak up the rays from the sun, it is crucial to have a dependable way to store it so that you can use solar energy when the sun is not shining.

So, how can you store massive amounts of solar power to use at night?

Read on to find out.

Can Solar Panels Store Energy for Nighttime Use?

No! Solar panels do not work at night. They only generate electricity and do not store energy at all.

Solar panels only convert the sun’s radiation into DC electricity, which is then sent to the primary panel of your home.

Solar panels need sunlight to create energy. Solar panels have also been known to generate some energy from the moon, street lights, and other light sources, but the output is always very low. For this reason, solar panels usually become inactive and do not produce electricity for your home at night.

Can Solar Panels Store Energy for Nighttime Use?

So, we have established that solar panels do not produce power at night.

But how can you get power supply at night?

Is it possible to shift solar output to evening hours?

Solar panels normally produce more electricity than you would normally use during the day. To balance this out, there are three main options you should consider. They are:

  • Solar battery
  • Net metering
  • Anti-solar panels

Let’s delve into these the options that will allow you to enjoy solar power when you get home from a busy day at work:

1. Solar battery

Lithium-ion battery technology has been around since the 1970s and has gained considerable popularity since then. As the lightest metal, lithium has the most electrochemical potential, meaning that it provides the highest energy density per weight. This makes it more efficient and far lighter than lead-acid batteries.

Pairing your energy storage with your solar arrays is one of the best ways to store energy for use when the sun is down and your panels can no longer generate electricity.

For a very long time, lead-acid batteries struggled to work properly in extreme temperatures. Thankfully, storing solar energy does not have to be so expensive anymore. With Li-ion solar batteries, you can enjoy optimal battery performance, even at extremely low temperatures.

The introduction of Li-ion batteries ensures that you can still store as much energy as possible to meet the needs of your household, even when the battery gets cold. The performance of your battery will only decline by about 10% despite very cold temperatures.

Furthermore, solar batteries have to work extra hard at extremely high temperatures. Although their performance may reduce by up to 20% at 86 degrees, the solar batteries will still be quite effective.

With the growth Li-ion technology, you too can now enjoy these advantages:

  • Cleaner energy
  • Longer battery life
  • Better recycling
  • Much less maintenance
  • Constant solar power even at night

Solar batteries have a very high life span and can support many complete charge and discharge cycles before their capacity reduces to below 80%. Hence, solar batteries do not require regular maintenance or replacement. Consequently, you can use them a thousand times and they will still maintain their functionality.

Some would even say that solar batteries are almost maintenance-free and you can use them without worrying about overcharging them or damage caused by deep discharge.

If you depend on a solar home battery for your home, rest assured that the battery capacity is reliable in any type of weather.

2. Net metering

When you connect your solar panel to an electric grid, you enable net metering, which functions like a savings account if you live in an area that offers it.

If you’ve installed an on-grid solar system, your solar panels are likely producing excess electricity, which is often deposited in the grid.

In return, the electric company will either give you a reimbursement or credit your bill. Then at night, when your solar panels can no longer generate electricity, you can use the energy credits saved on the electric grid.

Net metering is switched on each time your panels are unable to generate electricity at night. With this bidirectional connection, electricity can flow in and out of your home.

Being connected to the grid allows you to have electricity in your home even if there is a variation in the production from your solar panels. Therefore, the grid is a place where the entire community can store its solar energy.

How efficient is net metering in storing energy for later use?

Net metering is extremely efficient. Although it is not offered in all states and its future remains uncertain, with net metering credits, you will completely cover the costs of getting energy from the grid. It is unfortunate that some electric companies do not support net metering.

With solar energy growing in popularity every day, most electric companies are desperate to secure their place in the energy market. In some net metering cases, you may need to pay more so that you can draw back the electricity that you credited.

Therefore, you would be avoiding a lot of problems if you take the time to check out the net metering policies in your area. Also, consider using solar battery storage to augment your solar panel system. Nonetheless, you need an expert to guide you.

Our expert advisors are ready to help you and answer any net metering questions that you may have.

3. Anti-solar cells

Sunlight provides us with a lot of free energy, but it is quite difficult to harness all that energy since the sun only shines in the daytime. To help us generate and utilize power at night, researchers have been working on ways to improve the efficiency of solar panels.

However, high-efficiency solar panels have not been effective in generating solar power at night. Even battery technology has been improving extremely slowly.

Scientists from the University of California Davis have now created a technology that can help to supplement power generation at night when your solar panels and batteries are ineffective. This is known as anti-solar panels.

How do anti-solar panels work?

The team from the University of California, Davis proposes a technology that works as a heat engine.

In a paper they published in the ACS Photonics Journal, they affirmed that if you want to generate electricity at night, you have to create panels that work the exact opposite way your solar panels work in the day time.

It is common knowledge that solar panels can absorb light or radiation from the sun and convert it into energy because they are cold compared with the sun. Space is cold too, and so is the night sky. Therefore, pointing a warmer panel from Earth towards the sky will make the panel radiate energy as infrared light towards the sky.

Although anti-solar panels look like regular solar panels, they use different technology.

According to a professor at Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, UC Davis, Jeremy Munday, “you have heat energy coming from the Sun towards the Earth and that normal solar cell picks off that energy as it’s transmitted from the Sun to the Earth, so basically you need these two different temperature bodies and some way of converting that power.”

He went ahead to say that, “what this nighttime device does is a similar sort of thing—where it’s just taking a hot body and a cold body—but now the relatively hot body is the Earth and space is the cold body. As this heat is flowing from the Earth to outer space, it’s picking that off and converting that into power.”

Solar panels depend on photon-absorbing photovoltaic cells to create pairs of electron holes across a semiconductor to generate a working voltage. In contrast, anti-solar panels use a thermo-radiative cell to create electron-hole pairs by emitting infrared radiation from Earth into space.

It is estimated that these thermo-radiative cells may not be able to generate more than a quarter of the power that solar panels generate in the same area because of the infrared light’s lower energy.

What makes it easier for solar panels to capture light in visible wavelengths is the silicon material they contain. Perhaps if materials like mercury alloys, that are known to interact better with longer wavelengths of light, are used to manufacture these thermo-radiative cells, it could boost their efficiency.

Researchers are still developing prototypes to see if the concept can work effectively.

4. Hydrogen

According to Tom Meyer from the University of North Carolina, “There are lots of clever people doing lots of clever things in the battery business.”

Another option for generating solar energy at night is to direct the electricity from the PV to your water electrolyzers, responsible for generating hydrogen gas. You can store the hydrogen to use as feedstock for the fuel cells, allowing them to generate electricity when you need it.

This option is best suited for people in the industrial sector.

Meyer, while explaining his new strategy, said that the key to converting solar energy to hydrogen is water.

According to him, “You start out with water and just break it into its elemental form,” he says, “then collect that hydrogen in a tank and then burn it at night.”

He aims to reduce our carbon footprint while working with water to extend this project to power homes.

How does Meyer’s plan work?

First, solar energy will convert carbon dioxide into its combustive cousin, methanol. Then at night, the power plant will burn the methanol as fuel to convert it back to carbon dioxide. It will be captured and stored for later use.

When the sun comes out, the process of recycling carbon would begin again, thus reducing potentially harmful emissions.

6. Hydroelectricity and PV

This is a very expensive option.

You can also store electricity in supercapacitors. Later, electricity can be discharged and used to generate power whenever you need it.

5. Supercapacitors

How about storing solar electricity as potential energy when water is pumped to higher elevations?

Whenever you need electricity, you can convert the stored water potential into kinetic energy to spin the turbine (this is a way of combining hydroelectricity and PV) to generate electricity.

7. In the form of heat

Another brilliant option for storing solar energy is to store the energy as heat, which is the main energy storage method in concentrated solar power plants. It is in these solar power plants that heat is transferred to the food as it passes through the receiver. All the heat is concentrated at this point.

Then the receiver absorbs the thermal energy and stores it in a hot thermal tank ready for use when needed.

Which Option Do You Prefer To Use To Store Solar Energy For Nighttime Use?

The sun is our most trusted and most abundant sustainable resource in a world where climate change and fossil fuel hazards are impacting our lifestyle, communities, and planets. It is quite clear that the best solution for generating light at night is either solar batteries or net metering.

While solar panels may not be available to generate electricity for you at night, you can trust Enlightened Solar to handle your power issues.

Without increasing your carbon footprint, we can help you to build a clean future by creating clean solar energy for your home.

7 Benefits of On-Grid Solar Systems that Every Homeowner Should Know About

Did you know that a grid-connected solar system is the most cost-effective type of solar system for homeowners?

In its Short-Term Energy Outlook, the U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts that, by 2020, renewable energy will become the fastest-growing source of electricity generation, with the utility-scale solar capacity expected to rise by 13.7 GW in 2020 and 11.8 GW in 2021.

It is expected that the global electrical energy consumption will display an annual growth rate of approximately 2.2% from 2010 to 2040.

There are three main types of solar power systems, namely grid-connected, off-grid, and hybrid systems. Of all these different types of solar systems installed across the globe, the grid-connected solar system is the most preferred one.

Grid-connected solar systems also referred to as grid-tied, grid intertied, grid back feeding, utility-interactive, and on-grid solar systems, are increasingly attracting attention as a means of generating alternative energy by connecting the solar system to a utility power grid.

Here’s a quick preview of what you will learn from this article:

  • What is a grid-connected solar system?
  • Components of a grid-connected solar system
  • How does a grid-connected solar system work?
  • 7 Benefits of grid connected solar systems for homeowners
  • How to ensure supply reliability
  • Grid-connected solar systems and net metering

So, what is this grid-connected solar system you keep hearing about?

What is a Grid-Connected Solar System?

A grid-connected solar system is also referred to as a grid-connected photovoltaic system or a grid-tied power system. This electricity-generating solar power system is connected to the utility grid.

It comprises solar panels, inverters, a power conditioning unit, and grid connection equipment.

Grid-connected solar power systems range from small residential rooftop systems to large, utility-scale solar power stations. They hardly use integrated battery solutions, unlike stand-alone power systems.

Are you thinking of a cheaper and easier solar system option for your home?

A grid-connected solar power system is an extremely cost-effective and easy way to equip your home with solar energy. Basically, this system uses solar panels and an inverter to produce electricity. The function of the solar panels is to convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity, while the inverter turns the DC electricity into usable alternating current (AC) electricity.

A solar power system that is connected to the grid exports excess solar power from the panels to the grid during the day. Then at night, when the sun is down and the panels can no longer produce power, it uses the power from the grid.

Components of a Grid-Connected Solar System

Grid-connected or grid-tied solar systems produce solar energy during the day and, because you are connected to the grid, draw electricity from the power company when needed at night or in bad weather.

What are the key components required by a working grid-connected solar system?

They are:

  • PV modules

    The main function of the PV modules is to instantly convert sunlight into DC electrical power.

  • Bi-directional inverter

    The inverter converts DC power into the standard AC power for home use. Each time the grid distributes electricity, the inverter synchronizes with the utility power automatically.

    Interferences cause energy losses when inverters are used. This is the same for all the components of the power system. Typically, efficiency of an inverter, that is well matched to the solar array, is about 90%.

    Inverters produce an AC current in different outputs – square wave, modified square wave, and pure sine wave outputs. The square wave is the least expensive but is also the least efficient. The modified sine is quite efficient and has a moderate cost The pure sine is expensive but is the most efficient.

  • AC breaker panel with fuses

    The breaker panel or fuse box looks like a normal fuse box. It consists of a domestic supply and installation of electricity without the need for additional breakers for either the inverter or the filter connections.

  • Charge controller

    The purpose of the charge controller is to prevent the battery from overcharging, thereby prolonging the lifespan of your PV system.

  • Electric meters

    The PV generator requires two electric meters to function well. These meters are placed between the grid and the inverter.

    One of the meters is inserted into the grid so that it can help in billing and quantifying the energy that is generated. The other electric meter is used to quantify the PV inverter’s small consumption where there is no solar radiation.

  • Safety switches and cabling

    The PV array always produces voltage output in solar radiation so that it can be disconnected from the inverter for testing or maintenance. Isolator switches and inverter safety switches should be provided separately, and must be easy to disconnect from the system.

    Ensure that you use electrical cables that are correctly rated and sized to connect the various components. The electrical company may also demand earthing and fuses.

  • Electricity grid

    Grid-connected solar systems cannot existe without a utility grid. The solar system is connected to this grid to store electricity for later use.

How Does a Grid Connected Solar System Work?

Grid-connected solar systems provide homeowners with the power they need during the day, and because it is connected to the local electrical grid, it also provides power at night.

Curious to find out how a grid-connected solar system works?

Here are some very straightforward steps:

Step 1:

Sunlight hits the solar PV panels to produce electricity or solar energy.

Step 2:

The electricity then runs from the solar panels to the inverter, which converts the power from a direct current (DC) to an alternating current (AC). The subsequent solar electricity can be used to power your electronic appliances.

Step 3:

The solar power produced during the day runs through the switchboard to power the appliances you have in operation.

Step 4:

Light bulbs, air conditioners, dishwashers, television, sound systems, and other AC-powered electronic devices can make use of solar-powered electricity.

Step 5:

If the solar panels produce excess solar power or you have switched off your electrical appliances, the power will be transferred to the grid where it is measured by the meter box. Electricity retailers pay credits in exchange for the energy they return to the grid. At night, when your systems do not produce any energy, you can draw power from the grid and pay with the credits earned.

7 Benefits of Grid-Connected Solar Systems for Homeowners

A grid-tied solar system, as the name implies, means that the solar system is connected to an electrical grid.

Does this system offer homeowners any long-term benefits?

Here are 7 of the major benefits homeowners can enjoy from grid-connected solar systems:

1. Very affordable

The grid-connect solar system, unlike the other solar systems, is not very expensive. The cost-efficiency of this option can be attributed to the fact that there is no need to buy batteries and some other equipment. You will not have to bother with the reform costs that accompany batteries.

Also, the system helps to reduce bill expenses. The less you consume, the more energy you save to the utility grid, and the more money you gain from your state government.

In comparison, the grid-tied system costs less than other systems since installing one off-grid system costs up to 3 times the price of a grid-connected system.

2. Increases the value of your home

Installing solar panels in your home does not only help you to save thousands of dollars yearly.

Do you plan to sell your house someday?

Every homeowner wants to make improvements and repairs that will increase the value of their home when they are ready to sell.

The PV cell components of your solar system, in addition to generating energy, also raises the selling point of your home by adding a more technologically-related and modern look that will attract more buyers.

By investing in grid-connected solar panels, you will be making a major improvement that will boost the value of your home. You should prioritize this enhancement because buyers prefer a house that has a working solar system.

3. No need to buy expensive battery storage

Grid-connected photovoltaic systems are very affordable and easy to build and maintain. Since there is no need to buy a battery, which is the most expensive component, you do not have to worry about damaging the battery by under or over-charging.

4. Very reliable

What would you do when faced with a power shutdown?

If you install a grid-tied solar system, it would have collected and saved solar radiation in the utility grid. Therefore, when there is a power shutdown, it can provide you with power for your electrical appliances.

Also, it will continue to produce power whenever you use it. If you only consume a small amount of energy, the rest will be converted into money for you by your state government.

5. You get to use 100% renewable energy

Using some energy sources can cause considerable contamination. Thankfully, grid-connected solar systems use clean, renewable power to generate energy that will positively impact human beings and the environment.

Grid-connected solar systems do not require batteries, helping to reduce the environmental contamination caused by batteries, allowing you to breathe fresher air.

Most people prefer this type of solar system because it can be used for a very long time without experiencing any side effects or damage. It is safe to say that it has the longest lifespan compared to the other solar systems.

6. Easy installation

You do not need that much help in connecting your solar system to the grid. It involves a simple process that you can easily complete with the help of a friend over a weekend.

All you need to do is take note of the minimum requirements of 100 square feet for every kilowatt when installing the panels on your rooftop.

Here are the necessary steps you need to follow to install a grid-connected solar system:

  • Enlist the services of the best solar installation company. For best quality, best prices, and best quotes, contact Enlightened Solar. Request an on-grid solar system.
  • If you would rather install the system yourself, an expert from the company will visit your home to check your area for capacity and strength before installation.
  • The expert will check all your home electrical connections and loads.
  • They will recommend the best on-grid system for your home.
  • The engineer will help to install your preferred solar system.

7. Very resourceful and effective

The grid-connected solar system uses a very simple working process to produce energy.

The sun shines on the panels, producing a direct current, which is converted to AC for use in your home. Any excess energy is transferred to the utility. The grid stores energy to be used when the sun is down, instead of requiring batteries or a myriad of other costly equipment.

How to Ensure Supply Reliability

Whenever there is a power failure, you have to disconnect your grid-connected solar system from the utility grid for safety reasons. This will prevent uncontrolled stand-alone operations. Hence, the grid-connected solar system will go offline when there is a power failure.

This safety precaution helps to prevent the electrocution of utility personnel who may be working on the grid when there is a power failure. You can also configure your grid-connected system to work with a UPS or diesel generator without compromising the utility grid’s safety requirements.

When this is done, the solar power system will continue to operate and supply power to the load. If the solar panels are responsible for generating the power, the grid-tied inverter will automatically prioritize how this energy is used. Then, the UPS or generator will supply only a minimal load, making it more efficient.

Hence, grid-connected solar systems ensure that your home is provided with supply continuity whenever there is a power failure.

Grid-Connected Solar Systems and Net Metering

Connecting your solar array or solar panels to the local power grid will allow you to enjoy one of the major benefits of generating your own electricity – net metering or net billing.

What is net metering and how does it work?

If on a sunny day, your solar PV system produces more electricity than you can consume, the excess solar power is sent back to the utility grid. When this happens, your electrical meter will be rotated backward and your local power company will give you credits for the amount of electricity your grid-connected solar system has produced.

If you use more electrical energy than your solar system generates during the billing period, you will be billed the normal net amount of the electricity you consumed.

However, if the solar energy you generate is more than you consume, you will be credited for the net amount of the electricity generated. This could either be a reduction in your electricity bill or a direct refund to you.

If your local electricity company has net metering available, you may be asked to install a second electrical meter instead of using a single one that spins in both directions while you are installing your solar system.

With this new meter, you will be able to measure the net energy consumption entering and leaving your system. This will be used to reduce the amount you pay for your electricity bill. Be sure to find out what the policy of your electrical utility company is regarding buying back the energy your small solar power station generates.

Although net metering is the best way to resell the excess power your solar system generates, some utility companies have a lower wholesale rate for buying back energy than the electricity you use from the same utility company. Hence, to break even, you may have to generate more solar energy than you usually consume.

It is, therefore, important to pay close attention to the components of the solar services agreement of the utility company in your city.

Does this spark your interest in having your own solar power system?

There are lots of other indirect benefits you can enjoy from obtaining your own solar power system. The expertise, longevity, high quality, lower losses from transmission and distribution, long-term energy, minimal technical losses, and low gestation period are some of them.

To enjoy these benefits and many more, contact Enlightened Solar. We can help you to find the best solar system for you.