Real danger or pessimism?
On Friday afternoon, January 8,2021, we closely missed a Europe-wide power blackout. Several news service stations reported a regional power blackout in Transylvania, Romania. At the same time, there was a regional power shortage in France. Normally, European countries help each other out and bridge bottlenecks. In this specific case, the two simultaneous and unforeseen events almost turned into a fiasco for the whole of Europe. There were serious frequency fluctuations and a blackout was imminent. Read more about the background. Disturbance in the power grid.
When something happens that seems completely unimaginable
When the lights go out, there is no mobile phone, no internet, no heating, no ATM, no petrol station, no cash desk and no underground trains. When elevators simply get stuck, and even the water stops flowing and thus the toilets no longer flush, then something has occurred that many consider impossible: Blackout. Our daily routine depends on power supply. Emergency organizations relay on an intact infrastructure and are only partially protected against the effects of a major power blackout. Our high security of supply lets us leak the awareness of what might happen. Hardly anyone is prepared to manage without the usual supply and infrastructure.
The thriller Blackout by Marc Elsberg, published in 2012, is about the collapse of the European power grid. Reading the book makes many of us realize how much we depend on a functioning power grid. Read a book review.
How to protect ourselves?
A battery storage system offers security of supply and peaceful nights. You should pay attention to certain points when purchasing it.
Emergency power means that in the event of a power failure, your connection switches over to the storage unit. All BlueSky power storage units switch into emergency power mode within 20 milliseconds. This fast is important to make sure that running devices will not be damaged and will continue to run. When choosing a storage unit, pay attention to the switching times. Depending on the product, these can be considerably longer. It would be a shame if, in addition to the inconvenience of a power failure, expensive electrical appliances were damaged.
Emergency power mode supplies energy until the storage unit is discharged.
Off-grid or Island mode
You guessed right: an emergency power storage can bridge a power outage for a short period of time. How much time you get by depends on the charging level of the battery and whether the sun is shining and your photovoltaic system is producing electricity. At some point, the storage unit will be empty and the photovoltaic system will be in the shade or darkness. Then, your house remains in the dark.
The solution for handling longer-lasting outages is an off-grid or island-mode storage installation. In this case, your own energy source such as photovoltaics, wind power or even a generator is connected to the storage unit in such a way that a black start is possible. This means that the installation is DC-coupled. Your electrician knows what needs to be taken into account, and we will be happy to advise you.
What does black start mean and how to benefit from an off-grid storage system?
Let’s assume that after a long night in blackout, the sun rises the next morning. To start up your photovoltaic system, you need initial power. First the inverters have to work to make the photovoltaics work. In order to start up the inverters power is needed. On normal days, you obtain this start-up energy from the electricity grid. During a blackout, this process is called a black start. Only if photovoltaics and storage are installed and connected appropriately can the initial energy be built up from your own energy circuit, and reactivates your energy supply. An off-grid storage unit restarts the energy source and storage unit. In this way, you can restart the supply operation over days and weeks.
Load shedding and operation of defined consumers
The less energy you need the longer your back-up will last. We therefore recommend defining important consumers. Light, refrigerator, heating, possibly also an alarm system are essential in the event of a blackout. You can certainly do without a dishwasher or pool pump. Your installer will integrate these important consumers into a separate circuit for emergency power operation. An energy management system does load shedding (BlueSky Energy offers an integrated EMS in all plug & play solutions). The tool manages your grid. If the grid reaches its limits predefined consumers switch off.
Application example: Family home secured
After reading the book “Blackout” by Marc Elsberg, a family with a home in the Tyrolean Alps was certain: independence is a must.
The homeowner, himself a technician, began with the installation of a thermosolar system to optimize the self-supply of hot water. In addition, he installed a 14 kWc photovoltaic system on the roof. In a next step, the family installed a salt water battery storage system in the garage back in 2017 and the owner exchanged the petrol-powered car for an electric vehicle.
“We are thus completely autonomous for several days. When petrol stations no longer work and fuel for combustion engines cannot be filled up, we are still mobile. Besides, there will always be light in our house, I can cook something and the food in the freezer or fridge won’t spoil. Likewise, we stay constantly informed via satellite TV and radio!”