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Industrial Power Outages: Using Solar Panels With Inverters

If there is ever a time when we appreciate how much we depend on the electrical grid for industrial power, it’s during an electrical power outage.

According to a 2017 report from Diesel Service & Supply — a longtime supplier of industrial power generators and related hardware — “The United States’ power infrastructure is aging rapidly. The Department of Energy indicates power outages could be costing companies as much as $150 billion per year.”

This is why companies and organizations that can’t wait hours for power to be restored have a backup power strategy in place. Three of most common sources of emergency power are backup generators, uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs), and solar panels. For many industrial power users, the last option holds the most promise for the following reasons.

Duration of Power Supply

UPSs are large batteries that supply electricity for a period of time lasting between a few hours and two days. The exact time depends on the amount of power the device must deliver.

High-end UPSs usually work fine for data centers and other businesses that need to keep computers and IT hardware up and running. But for industrial operations that need to keep a line of production equipment in operation, the duration of power a UPS supplies is often too short. Energy from the UPS is consumed at a rapid pace, and the battery dies until recharged.

An industrial grade emergency power generator is a better option. Hospitals generally use diesel powered generators, receiving about four day’s worth of power from the entire installation. Some organizations even keep emergency fuel onsite to refill generators if they run out.

Because solar panels provide sustainable power, they’re preferable to generators.

Implementing enough panels to fully support a facility may be unfeasible, but implementing enough panels to keep production line running during a power outage is an easier. As long as they absorb enough solar energy, the panels can provide industrial power indefinitely.

Cost of Maintenance

An industrial grade UPS is usually low-maintenance. It’s a large battery contained in rigid equipment housing. Because it’s only used during power outages, performing scheduled maintenance on the apparatus keeps it in great working order.

The same applies to solar panels. Most panel models have a straightforward lifespan and few if any moving parts. If they need attention beyond scheduled maintenance, it’s usually because the elements — such as high winds or hail — caused a little damage.

Unlike UPSs and solar panels, diesel backup generators are costly to maintain. The fuel must be drained and replaced after a certain period of time, the motor must be continually maintained, and generators are often placed on a test schedule, in which power outages are simulated to see if the equipment is ready for the real situation.

Chance to Sell Power

If you produce more electricity than you need, you can sell the surplus to the utility company. UPSs and backup generators are designed to deliver emergency electricity for a certain period of time and thus produce no surplus.

A solar installation that runs continuously, on the other hand, can produce a surplus. When it does, the user can connect the installation to the power grid using a grid tie inverter, and sell the excess power to the utility provider for the per kilowatt hour rate for the state where the installation is located.

Need a Power Inverter?

If you plan to use solar panels for industrial power, you’ll need a power inverter that changes direct current (DC) electricity to alternating current (AC) electricity. In addition, using a grid tie inverter with solar panels gives you the opportunity to sell electricity to the utility company, if you produce enough power.

To learn more about using power inverters and grid tie inverters from Exeltech with emergency power infrastructures, call us today at (800) 886-4683, or send us an email through our contact form. We look forward to assisting you!