Will My Solar Power Work During a Blackout?

solar backup system sacramento ca

PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) program, the large-scale mandated electricity shutdown that rolled out as a communications and logistics disaster and prompted a state investigation, has pushed many Bay Area residents to consider solar power. 

One of the biggest solar-related questions we hear is this: “Will my solar power work during a blackout?” 

The answer to that question is yes, solar power can work during a blackout … but you need the right system to handle these special energy needs. 

Bay Area Solar Power: Blackout Backup

There are generally three types of solar energy systems: on-grid, off-grid, and hybrid systems. Depending on the system you choose, your solar power can work during a blackout.

On-grid, or grid-tied systems, depend on a power company to work. Solar customers with a grid-tied system generally find that their system generates more energy than their home actually needs, and that they can sell their electricity back to the electric company. However, there’s a catch: the surplus energy going from your home back to the power company keeps the power lines live even if there is a blackout. This would create a serious safety hazard for line technicians. For this reason, grid-tied solar energy systems will not generate electricity during a blackout.  

Off-grid systems are not at all dependent on the power company, so if the power goes out for everyone else, your lights stay on. Generated power is stored in a battery system connected to your home. A backup generator is a good thing to have in case of inclement weather that prevents your system from generating and storing enough energy. Off-grid solar energy systems will generate electricity during a blackout since they are completely independent of a power company.

Hybrid systems are connected to the grid – but they also have battery storage. If the system is properly set up and managed, you’ll keep your power on in case of blackout.  Power companies often have different rates for peak and non-peak hours, which hybrid systems can take advantage of by using your own energy during peak hours and returning energy to the grid during the times you’ll get paid the most for it. A hybrid system will also generate electricity during a blackout because it can run off of the battery-stored energy. 

Will My Battery Charge During a Blackout?

You may have even seen information in the past implying that you need a live hookup to the grid in order to charge your home battery. We have first-hand experience and evidence that shows that it’s possible to have a charge even when the power is out.

The images below show that a customer whose power was out due to PG&E’s PSPS event was still able to charge his batteries during the blackout. Because of sunlight where he lived, his battery storage went from 51% to 100% in less than four hours, all while there was no power. 

livermore solar panels

Some companies that provide solar options may state that there is a limitation on charging during a blackout. These limitations exist as disclaimers in order to control customers’ expectations, not to make guarantees. For example, the Tesla Powerwall website says that the battery charge can “last 7+ days” but it also states that they limit the estimate to seven days “to account for the occasional cloudy day that may impact solar production.”


livermore solar provider battery
image from Tesla Powerwall website

Solar Power Can Work for You

The type of system you choose will determine whether or not your power stays on during a blackout.  The cost, equipment, the location of your home or business, and other factors will come into play when deciding what kind of solar panel system to choose. For customers from Sacramento to San Jose, we help you decide exactly what solar solutions will work for your energy goals. We’re ready to help, so contact us to get personal advice in finding what will work best for you.

Questions? Just fill out the form and we’ll be in touch as soon as possible.