How much do you know about solar power? You may have considered converting your home to run on solar power so that you would be energy independent during a disaster. However, as I was reminded at a recent energy conference, solar power doesn’t work that way.
I am certainly no expert on the electrical power grid, but in speaking to those who are, it seems that there is a common misconception that merely installing solar panels on your home makes you independent from the local power grid. The problem is that in any electrical system power generation must be balanced by the load, that is, supply must match demand. What this means is if your solar power system is generating more power than you need and you are no longer connected to the grid, it is highly likely that your appliances will burn out. This is the reason why home solar power systems sell excess energy back to the electrical grid.
What is needed is storage capacity for the excess energy. Unfortunately, this is not usually feasible for the average homeowner. The typical home consumes roughly 33 kWh of energy in a day. Providing standard lead acid batteries sufficient to store this level of energy would require a small room and cost close to $10,000. Lithium ion batteries are even more expensive, costing something on the order of $36,000. Unless you’re located in an area remote from the electrical grid, installing the necessary battery backup is cost prohibitive.
There are alternatives. Like anything disaster related, the question you should ask is, “what do I need to power?” If all you are seeking is the means to recharge communications equipment or to use small electrical devices, there are self-contained solar power systems that could meet your needs. There are even solar powered generator systems although their size, weight, and cost are prohibitive for the average homeowner. For most homeowners, the most cost-efficient solution is to purchase a generator and install a transfer switch that will allow the generator to power your home. However, generators come with their own set of problems such as the need for fuel and periodic maintenance and you need to take these things into account in making your decision.
Solar power is a good thing and has many benefits to the homeowner and the environment. Unfortunately, it doesn't offer any advantages in a disaster.