Store unused solar energy to keep the power on during extreme weather
Extreme weather events, from hurricanes and blizzards to wildfires and heat waves, have become increasingly common in recent years, posing significant challenges to our daily lives.
One of the most frustrating and potentially dangerous consequences of these events is the loss of electrical power. When the lights go out, we’re reminded of just how reliant we are on a steady flow of electricity for our homes and daily routines.
However, there’s a beacon of hope on the horizon: energy storage systems, often paired with solar panels, are emerging as a game-changing solution that empowers homeowners to weather these storms.
From keeping your refrigerator running to powering essential medical equipment, these systems offer homeowners newfound resilience and peace of mind when it’s needed most. Let’s shed some light on how energy storage can keep your home up and running when the world outside is in chaos.
What is energy storage?
Energy storage refers to a storage battery system, which can be compatible with your solar panels and home. Storage batteries are wall or ground mounted batteries that can store electricity for late ruse, from either unused solar energy or the electrical grid. Homeowners can take advantage of their storage battery with or without a solar system.
panels and home. Storage batteries are wall or ground mounted batteries that can store electricity for late ruse, from either unused solar energy or the electrical grid. Homeowners can take advantage of their storage battery with or without a solar system.
Storage batteries, sometimes called solar batteries, are usually scalable. Meaning you can install one or more batteries depending on how much energy you might need. While this blog focuses on how storage batteries can help in storms, they can be used at any time. Many solar owners use batteries to store unused solar energy to use it at night or peak hours.
For homeowners in California, NEM 3.0 made the payback period of solar-plus-storage systems less than that of solar-only systems. This is because batteries allow you to use more low-cost energy from your solar system.
How solar and storage helped during Hurricane Irma
Jim Walden, a Florida resident, remained one of the few with electricity after Hurricane Irma thanks to his solar panels and a 10-kilowatt hour energy storage system. When the hurricane struck in September of 2022, Walden was the only person in miles who was able to get out of bed, switch on the lights and grab food from his refrigerator.
While solar panels alone couldn’t provide continuous power during grid outages due to safety measures, the addition of a storage system allowed Walden to have a steady supply of electricity. Walden’s storage system was not enough to power his air conditioning, but allowed him to keep his home habitable until after the storm.
“It worked flawlessly,” Walden said to Grist.org about his solar-plus-storage system.
“We had plenty of power for the fans to keep us cool and the lights when you walk into the bathroom at night. The wife would even run her hairdryer off of it.”
The combination of solar and storage systems has become more common, as battery costs have decreased and some utility companies offer storage options for backup power. These systems offer homeowners increased self-sufficiency, reliability and comfort during extreme weather.
Previously, New Jersey solar homeowners who experienced Hurricane Sandy found that solar alone will not keep the lights on during power outages. Solar systems turn off during an outage to protect utility technicians working on downed power lines.
“By all means, I would encourage people to at least look into it,” Walden told Forbes.
How can energy storage help in a hurricane?
Energy storage systems are a lifeline for homeowners facing power outages during hurricanes. These systems offer a range of crucial benefits that can significantly mitigate the disruptions caused by extreme weather and natural disasters.
Energy storage provides emergency backup power when the electrical grid fails, like when hurricane winds or flooding disrupts power lines or infrastructure. This means homeowners can continue to power essential appliances like refrigerators, lighting and medical devices — ensuring the comfort and well-being of their families.
For those with solar panels, energy storage allows them to harness and store excess energy during sunny days. This stored energy can then be tapped into when the sun is not shining or during prolonged outages, reducing dependence on the grid and fossil fuels.
In addition to these practical benefits, energy storage systems promote resilience and self-sufficiency. Homeowners gain greater control over their energy supply, reducing their reliance on external sources and bolstering their ability to weather the storm.
Energy storage systems can be indispensable during hurricanes, offering homeowners a reliable and sustainable source of backup power. They not only enhance safety and comfort but also play a crucial role in supporting the overall resilience of communities in the face of severe weather events.
How can energy storage help during a tornado?
Similar to hurricanes, tornadoes bring strong winds that can damage power lines or other essential infrastructure. This can leave homeowners without electricity until after the storm has passed. Storage batteries can be a useful resource for homeowners across the U.S., regardless of climate.
In the event of a tornado or dangerous high-speed winds, storage batteries can provide essential power. This power can help people charge their phones, hardware batteries, some appliances and other household functions.
While tornadoes are traditionally associated with the central United States, in an area between Texas and South Dakota known as ‘Tornado Alley’ — tornadoes have occurred in all 50 states. Even without a tornado, parts of the U.S. see powerful thunderstorms bringing wind speeds of over 58 mph.
Thousands of people were left without power for weeks in Oklahoma and Texas earlier this year, due to high speed winds knocking out essential infrastructure. Combined with heat waves or cold weather, power outages can become deadly.
How can energy storage help during wildfires?
Wildfires have become more frequent and intense in the western U.S. over the past two decades. This is due to climate change increasing heat and extending drought. For homeowners across California, Colorado and other wildfire affected areas — power outages can occur.
Forest or prairie fires can damage electrical equipment or cause power cuts, which can leave homes without power — even if they aren’t in the fire’s path. In California, utilities perform Planned Safety Power Shutoffs which can last 24-48 hours to prevent the worsening of wildfires.
Battery storage allows homeowners to continue powering their homes. By tapping into unused solar energy or previously stored energy from the grid, homeowners can strategically use their battery to power essential appliances. This can help bring peace, comfort and resources to homeowners during concerning times.
The impact of extreme weather on homeowners
Extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, can have devastating consequences for homeowners. One of the most immediate and disruptive impacts is the loss of power to homes.
When a hurricane strikes, it brings strong winds, heavy rains and storm surges that can damage power lines, substations or your home’s electrical system. This can result in prolonged power outages and leave homeowners without essential services. Without electricity, your home cannot regulate inside temperatures, provide light, maintain refrigerated or frozen foods and make communication devices unusable.
Extended power outages disrupt daily life, impacting work, school and the ability to prepare meals. It can lead to financial losses and emotional distress. The loss of power also affects medical devices that rely on electricity, posing a serious risk to those with medical conditions. Additionally, without functioning sump pumps, homes can flood, causing extensive water damage.
In response, many homeowners are investing in backup power solutions like home battery systems to mitigate these risks. Unlike generators, a solar and storage system can be used year-round and provide financial savings.
If your solar system is connected to the power grid, your panels will not power your home in order to protect utility technicians. This is why a storage battery is needed in case of an outage. Storage batteries can use unused solar electricity from before the hurricane to provide power to your home.
Extreme weather events underscore the importance of disaster preparedness and the resilience of homes in the face of climate-related challenges. By investing in an energy storage battery, you’re able to provide limited power to your home in the event of a climate emergency.
How else solar and storage can help you
Solar energy systems and energy storage offer a myriad of benefits for homeowners, making them a smart and sustainable choice for powering homes. At Enact, our home energy advisors are here to help homeowners transition to clean and reliable energy — whether you want to go solar or just get a battery.
Solar systems significantly reduce or even eliminate electricity bills. By harnessing the power of the sun, homeowners can generate their own clean and renewable energy, reducing their dependence on grid electricity. This not only leads to substantial long-term cost savings but also shields homeowners from rising utility rates.
Energy storage systems complement solar panels by storing excess energy generated during the day for use during nighttime or cloudy days. This ensures a consistent and reliable energy supply, enhancing energy independence and reducing the reliance on the grid. It also provides homeowners with backup power during grid outages, enhancing their resilience and peace of mind.
Installing solar and energy storage systems reduces a household’s carbon footprint, contributing to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyle. This eco-friendly choice can also increase a home’s resale value and appeal to environmentally conscious buyers.
With solar and storage, Enact empowers homeowners to see with financial savings, energy security, environmental benefits and the satisfaction of contributing to a greener future. It’s a win-win solution for both homeowners and the planet.
If you want to learn more about how Enact can simplify your solar and storage journey, talk to our home energy advisors for a free estimate. With just some basic information, we can design a custom energy system for your home. Our in-house designers can create solar, solar-plus-storage or storage-only systems that are right for your home.
Written by David Bartle, content marketing associate
Edited by Aisha Shaikh, product marketing manager
Research contributed by Nikita Panwar, marketing intern