Why Many People with Solar Panels Still Don’t Have Power After a Hurricane

There has been a lot written about installing solar power at home, but unless you have specifically set-up your system for emergency backup or disaster response, then it won’t automatically provide off-grid power.

There are several reasons why your system doesn’t work after the storm passes.

  • If you have a grid-tie system (solar power on your home that feeds into the grid when you have an excess of power to improve your electrical bill)and it is not set-up with a backflow stop for when the grid shuts down, then you will not have power during a blackout. If the grid is down, then all your power will flow into the “empty” grid leaving you with none. This flow could also put a charge into lines that are being worked on and inadvertently electrocute utility workers or others around downed lines, so for safety reasons, your system automatically shuts down when the grid shuts down.
  • Many on-grid systems use a type of inverter that synchronizes with the incoming power from the grid. If there is no power coming in, then there is nothing to sync to and your inverter won’t work.
  • Hurricanes and tornadoes involve high winds and flying debris. Most people have photovoltaic solar panels on their roof or on post stands. When a major storm comes in, the panels are either ripped off their mountings completely or damaged by blowing debris. A damaged panel or one that is partially shaded will shut itself off completely and produce no power. Even a broken corner will result in most solar panels not working at all.

There are solutions. If you have a grid-tie system, make sure you have battery backup and a way to isolate your power from the grid. This may involve a hardwired switch to isolate your house from the grid or may need you to physically disconnect your battery bank from your house power.  Make sure that your inverter can either synchronize the AC power to your battery power or create its own sine wave. Some more expensive systems like the Tesla power wall have this capacity built in already.

If you have back up battery power and have physically disconnected the batteries from the house power, then you need to have an inverter (to create AC power) and extension cords to run power from the batteries to your essential equipment and appliances.  To run most home appliances with a motor, you will need a pure sine wave inverter. Wire your outside solar panels to the battery bank, but make sure you have a charge controller between the panels and the batteries to control the power flow to the batteries.

The solution to the problem of wind damaging or destroying your panels is an easy one. Take the panels down before the storm hits and store them out of the wind. Then when the storm passes, put the panels back up. Make sure your electronics are either waterproof or stored in waterproof cases. Off-grid portable systems makes this easy with quick set-up and take down. Alternatively, some lightweight panels also have additional protection that the rest of the solar panel still functions if one cell is damaged.

If you are in a hurricane or tornado prone area, and you have lost your solar panels to the recent storms, consider replacing them or offsetting them with portable panels and/or making your system emergency backup ready.

solar tracking alignment sight

Harnessing the Sun Track Alignment Sight

solar tracking alignment sight

Prototype for Sun Track Alignment Sight, 2015

The most important part of any solar system is the sun, and how you harness the most power out of it can be one of the biggest challenges. If you take a quick look around the web, one of the regular questions out there revolves around how to get the most out of your system. How do you harness the most power? How do you figure out just what way to turn your panels to get the highest energy output?

For most people the answer comes from a series of calculations. There are websites, books, and entire forums dedicated to the formulas and mathematics behind panel positioning. Global positioning, time of day, and season all have to be accounted for.

At Azimuth we wanted to make solar more accessible to everyone, and that meant not only making it portable and easy to set up, but taking the numbers out of it too. With our Sun Track Alignment Sight we have done the math for you, all you do is line up the red dot.

The sight projects a red dot onto a crosshair display which shows the sun’s position over a five hour period. Simply line up the crosshairs to ensure full solar power production. Or position your panels for the best exposure over a five hour period without repositioning.

Why not make solar simple?

solar flooding waterproof

We’re Weatherproofing Portable Solar

Portable solar isn’t something which can typically survive the elements. Charge controllers, cables, and batteries usually need to be brought in from the rain and moisture while wind topples most portable arrays. But some things need to run even when the weather is poor. Some things need to run specifically when the weather is poor.

Rain, snow, and wind don’t need to be obstacles to solar power. With the right design and components, complete solar systems can be left up to battle the weather and water while still generating power. The ASP Portable Solar Generators from Azimuth Solar Products use high quality and rugged components and enclosures to keep running even when the shine isn’t shining.

Combiner Box

The IP67 rated waterproof enclosure of the combiner box can withstand the rugged demands of adventuring and off-grid living in any weather. MC4 connectors on the outside of the Combiner Box remove the need for opening and securing junction boxes during set up and take down, which is a feature all the more important in poor weather.

30A MPPT Charge Controller

Charge Controllers are the most water-sensitive part of any solar generating system. They are usually stored inside in dry environments and sometimes require additional de-humidifying equipment. More inventive solar users construct their own waterproof casing for their charge controllers. But they can be left frustrated if even a single drop manages to find its way to the component.

The 30A Charge Controller included with the ASP systems is an especially durable and weather resistant model. It is 100% non-condensing, allowing it to handle humidity and water without additional waterproof casing or solutions. The MPPT system is substantially more effective at harvesting power during extreme temperatures and low light than other systems, providing the maximum possible power in any condition. It is also 30% more efficient than regular models, wringing the most power out of any rainy day.

Output Panel

The on-board output panel includes waterproof and dustproof power sockets for 12V Car Lighter and SAE connections. While the receptacles themselves might be protected from the elements it’s still important to make sure the plugs going in are dry, too.

Tripod and Frame

All the panels and components of the generator systems are supported by a sturdy and unique design. The unique tripod, pillar, mount, and frame are all-weather. Made from stainless steel and powder-coated aircraft aluminium, there’s no worry of rusting or toppling in windy conditions. The support system can handle wind speeds up to 140 mph and can be anchored down with included military-grade stakes or additional equipment.

Learn more about ASP Portable Solar Generators.

We're Weatherproofing Portable Solar
portable solar generator

Our Debut

We are extremely excited to be debuting our products at the BC Interior Sportsman Show this weekend in Kelowna, BC! Come see us at Booth 34 from April 7th to 9th at the Capital News Centre. Tickets are available at the door and our own Matthew Longman will be speaking on Saturday the 8th at noon.

Matthew’s Speech – Portable Solar Generators: Solar Power for your RV, Cabin and Emergencies

Show Hours:  Friday April 7th 5pm-8pm | Saturday April 8th 9am-6pm | Sunday April 9th 9am-4pm

Address: 4105 Gordon drive, Kelowna