November 29, 2021

How does solar power work at night?


Solar power systems that are used in homes and businesses take the energy from the sun, collect it in solar panels, convert it into usable energy with an inverter, and then use it to power appliances, heating, lighting, and anything else that requires electricity.

In this article we will cover

Solar power systems that are used in homes and businesses take the energy from the sun, collect it in solar panels, convert it into usable energy with an inverter, and then use it to power appliances, heating, lighting, and anything else that requires electricity.

Once the sun goes down, there’s no sunlight. No sunlight, no power, right?

Not quite.

Even when there isn’t any sunlight to gather, you can still use solar power to provide electricity to your home and business - and no, we’re not talking about using moonlight either. We’re talking about solar storage.

What are solar batteries and how do they work?

In a typical grid-tied domestic solar power system, energy that is generated during the day but isn’t used immediately ends up being sent back into the national grid. Instead of you paying for power, the utility companies pay you, the exact amount depending on the solar buyback rate.

However, rather than selling their extra power, many solar power users instead choose to store that unused energy for later in one or more solar batteries.

When the sun isn’t shining, such as at night, this energy is then released to power the home or business just the same way as it would if it were daytime.

Why bother with solar batteries?

Solar power is an excellent way to offset your carbon footprint, reduce your utility costs, and power through blackouts. But not every solar power system works the same way, and is suitable for the same people.

Simple grid-tied solar systems, for example, are great for people who use a lot of power during the day, when solar generation is highest. This might include:

  • People who are self-employed and run a business during the day
  • Retired people who spend a lot of time at home
  • People who run washing, heating and cleaning appliances throughout the day

However, a lot of Kiwis don’t spend as much time actually at home. People who head into the office for their 9-5, for example, are leaving their house empty. All the solar power that’s generated during the peak period is then wasted, being sent straight back into the grid instead of being used directly.

When considering solar power, many New Zealanders are interested in one thing: whether or not the addition of solar power is going to make sense financially. People who are able to use their solar power directly, rather than sending it back to the grid, are going to find that the financial numbers add up much better.

But what about those people who aren’t home to use the power? Those are the people who are best suited to using solar batteries, so they can benefit from their free, green solar for longer.

Are solar batteries expensive?

Solar technology has progressively been getting better as time goes on. Panels are smaller and more efficient, inverters can handle more power, and batteries are getting larger capacities, better release efficiencies, and, perhaps most importantly, lower costs.

The fact is that while grid-tied solar systems are still the lowest-cost solar systems on the market, hybrid solar power systems are rapidly reducing in cost as well, and with greater solar storage capabilities.

What is a hybrid solar power system?

A hybrid solar power system is similar in many ways to a grid-tied solar system. It still has a connection to the grid, and power is generated the same way - sunlight goes into the panels, and an inverter converts it into electricity.

The difference is what happens once the electricity has been converted.

A hybrid solar power system is able to easily control multiple sources of power:

  • From your solar panels
  • From the grid
  • From/into your batteries

Hybrid systems are able to intelligently and efficiently adjust the power flow of a variety of electricity sources to ensure that you always have power when you need it - whether that’s from your solar panels during the day, or from your batteries during the night.

While most solar power systems can be rigged up with solar storage even after installation, hybrid solar power systems are designed with solar storage in mind.

Can my solar power system have a solar battery?

If you want your solar power system to still provide electricity at night, you’ll need some form of solar storage. Not every system can handle the addition of a battery, but most can. 

If you’re interested in adding solar storage to your existing system, or are interested in investing in a solar power system that is built with storage in mind, get in touch with the experts at ZEN Energy to find out how we can help you live free under the sun.

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