Grid-Tie Solar + Power Outage Backup!

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Depending on the reliability of the electricity supply in your location, you may want a backup generator. They are usually diesel or gasoline fueled, but they can very well be fueled using sunshine.

Diagram for a grid-tie solar system with battery backup
A diagram of the EnergyBridge grid-tie solar system. Image Credit: EnergyBridge Website.

The convenience of backup generators is priceless, because when there is a power outage, you will normally be bitten up by mosquitoes, sweat like a pig, and wait in silence (except for that high-pitched mosquito buzzing) without television or internet access until the power is restored.

However, I have heard of one common issue with these generators that doesn’t really change much — they sometimes can’t even start when needed. I have experienced it a few times myself.

This is because the fuel deteriorates, the starter battery dies, and mechanical parts can stiffen as well, preventing them from starting.

So, how about a grid-tie solar power system that doubles as a backup generator, minus the smoke, vibration, and noise caused by a conventional generator?

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This is possible using a combination of a switch, solar panels, and batteries, and the EnergyBridge solar generator is an example of just this. The EnergyBridge is currently on Kickstarter, trying to raise money for Underwriters Laboratory (UL) safety testing to hopefully receive a UL 1741 certification.

Wait… don’t batteries fail when sitting for a long time just as do generators?

Yes, but because of the way this system is setup, the solar panels in an EnergyBridge setup keep the batteries charged, so they can avoid this issue.

The issue is caused by battery self-discharge. Batteries gradually lose their charge over a period ranging from one month to one year, depending on the type of battery, and they will deteriorate to the point where they are unrecoverable if left sitting long enough. But you don’t have to remember to “start” a solar system, so this issue completely vanishes if you choose such a setup.

From the EnergyBridge website:

Our system is less expensive to buy than traditional battery backup and is more powerful than similar sized generators. When power finally comes back on the EnergyBridge continues to work, charging its batteries and even selling the excess power back to the power company.

The EnergyBridge is a hybrid inverter for photovoltaic PV installations where AC is present (Grid-tie) or can be used to provide backup power wherever AC is needed (Off-grid). Use our inverter with solar panels, batteries, fuel-cell, wind or even hydro. Our simple installation allows any user to connect solar and solar backup to their home or business.

Sound very useful. I’m sure many Superstorm Sandy victims would have valued having one of these.

To pledge some money for this project, head on over to Kickstarter.

Follow me on Twitter: @Kompulsa.

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Nicholas Brown

Has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography. His website is:

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