Alternative Energy (Solar/Wind)/Solar use during power outage
I was thinking of getting a backup gas generator for emergencies, I also have solar panels that are connected to the "grid." Is there a way that I can use my solar panels as an emergency backup power source instead of using a gas generator? The problem that I currently face is when the "grid" looses power my system is designed to shut down.
A grid only system is the most common, most efficient and most affordable of solar PV. The downside, you know, is if the utility goes out, the inverter stops feeding power to the grid. The inverter is still on, but it does not feedback power to energize the lines that are potentially going to be worked on by the utility company.
To use the power from the panels during a blackout you would need to physically disconnect the solar from the grid. It would need some type of storage to maintain power for your home and to moderate the output, as solar power will vary based on time of day, shade and weather conditions. These options are available as a separate type of inverter, a charge controller and a set of batteries (plus all the bits and pieces to connect them). This type of setup is only a small portion of the solar electric residential market.
Off-grid and On-grid battery backup are much more expensive, higher maintenance, much lower ratio of power from the sun to usable power in the home and requires batteries to be changed frequently (at a high cost) as the battery life is much shorter than the rest of the solar components. In most cases that I have seen, it is much more favorable to have a backup generator for the occasional blackout than to invest in a battery backup system.
I hope this helps,