Have you ever wondered how solar panels store energy for later use?
The short answer is that solar modules don’t store energy at all.
But that doesn’t mean homes with solar PV systems are left in the dark when the sun goes down.
Solar panels have one job — to harness light energy from the sun. The dozens of photovoltaic cells inside the panels generate an electrical charge when exposed to sunlight.
However, photovoltaic cells produce direct current (DC) electricity, not the standard alternating current (AC) used for appliances and electronics in the United States. To convert DC to AC, you must connect solar modules to an inverter.
When the sun isn’t shining, photovoltaic cells can’t produce electricity. So if you want to use power at night and on cloudy days, another source of energy is a must.
Most homes with PV systems are grid-tied, or connected to the municipal utility grid. Essentially, the utility company acts as a bank that automatically ponies up whenever electricity is needed. And in areas with net metering, owners of grid-tied photovoltaic systems get credit for energy deposits to the grid storage bank.
Electricity from solar panels can also be stored in a battery bank. Depending upon the size, a battery backup system can hold several days’ worth of photovoltaic energy, or more.
With grid-tied home PV systems, a battery bank isn’t strictly necessary. After all, the utility company can provide backup electricity.
That said, more Intermountain West homeowners are choosing hybrid photovoltaic systems. A hybrid system is grid-tied, but also has solar batteries. With power outages on the rise, a backup source of energy is an attractive feature.
If you’re not planning to connect to the utility grid — perhaps your home is too remote, or you’d rather be self-sufficient — you’ll need a battery backup system for around-the-clock electricity. Or if you prefer, you could invest in a solar-powered generator. For peace of mind in knowing that you’ll always have home energy, however, you may want to get a battery bank and a generator.
Have more questions about how photovoltaic energy works? Or are you ready to explore your home PV options? Intermountain Wind & Solar offers free consultations and estimates to homeowners throughout Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Colorado and Wyoming. Contact us today to learn more about installing solar panels.
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