Should I purchase a solar power station?

Gas powered generators vs. solar power stations

Gas-powered generators are a popular back-up power supply option for many individuals that want to ensure energy access if there’s a blackout or don’t have access to an outlet. A greener and cleaner alternative are solar power stations which bring all the benefits of gas-powered generators without the noise and fuel. Here’s what to consider if you’re thinking about purchasing a solar power station.

What are solar generators?

Like gas-powered generators, solar power stations let you plug appliances directly into the device to start using energy. However, unlike gas-powered generators which are loud, dirty, and heavy, solar power stations are clean and quiet. Solar generators are essentially a portable solar installation, housing the key solar components in one lightweight unit. Solar power stations include a battery, charge controller, and inverter. Solar generators collect energy from solar panels and store it in an efficient battery, often lithium iron phosphate. Through an inverter, the stored energy is converted to AC power to charge devices and appliances at home, including smartphones, lights, laptops, and refrigerators.

Renogy Australia has a Phoenix 300 that you can charge with portable solar panels and use when you need them most, which has a capacity of 337Wh.

PHOENIX 300 POWER STATION

Who are solar generators a good fit for?

  • Campers and travelers who want to keep their devices charged
  • Those looking for backup power in case of an emergency or blackout
  • Those wanting to dip their toes in the solar pool without investing in a solar panel kit or system

Why should I purchase a solar power station over a gas-powered generator?

There are many benefits to purchasing a solar generator. Solar generators can recharge your house batteries, allowing you to run AC appliances while on the road without needing to hook up to external power sources. Plus, solar panels can work all day long, whether you’re home or not, meaning you could be out for a hike and charging up your batteries in time for movie night at basecamp. This is not the case with gas-powered generators.

Pros of Solar Power Stations

  • Solar energy is reliable and quiet
  • Power stations are portable and lightweight
  • They are a sustainable, green option.
  • You don’t need to pay for gas.
  • Solar is virtually maintenance-free.
  • Solar gives you more camping options.

Cons of Solar Power Stations

  • You need to have enough sunlight to collect enough energy.
  • You need to purchase external solar panels to collect energy.

How much are solar power stations?

Gas-powered generators vary in price between $650 and upwards of $3,500. Renogy’s PHOENIX 300 Power Station cost AU$559.99.

What are the three different types of solar systems?

  1. On-grid systems (grid-tie solar systems)

On-grid systems are the most common and widely used systems. You do not need battery storage and can simply use energy from your panels when they are producing. Then, when your panels aren’t producing power, such as at night or when it’s too overcast, you can tap into the grid.

  2. Off-grid solar systems (stand-alone power systems)

If you live in a remote area without reliable and affordable access to the grid, off-grid solar can be a great way to meet your energy needs. Off-grid systems utilize batteries to store energy produced from solar panels. Systems must be sized and designed to fit a variety of needs throughout the year, especially in the winter when there are fewer sunlight hours.

  3. On-grid systems with battery storage

With the decreasing costs of batteries, more and more people are choosing to add battery storage to their on-grid projects to be able to take advantage of the benefits of both on- and off-grid systems, such as having energy access during blackouts and having to pay for less energy from the grid.

I have a solar installation. Will my solar panels keep the lights on during a blackout?

It’s important to remember that just because you have a solar installation on your home doesn’t mean you’ll be able to access power during a blackout.

As a general rule of thumb, if you’re not connected to the grid and rely solely on battery storage, you’ll be able to keep the lights on with your solar installation. If you’re connected to the grid, then you most likely will not be able to access power. This is because it would be dangerous for your system to produce energy into the grid during a blackout while utility workers may be working on the lines to get things up and running again.

In order to maintain access to power during a blackout, you’ll need to either be off-grid, purchase a gas-powered generator, or have a solar power station.

Should I buy a back-up gas powered generator if I already have a solar installation?

Even though there are numerous benefits to using solar energy, many people find that gas-powered generators can be a great supplement to their solar installations.

  • I have a grid-tie system (on-grid): A back-up gas-powered generator can keep the lights on in case of blackouts or when your panels aren’t producing enough energy
  • I have a hybrid system: Your battery bank should be able to cover your excess energy needs, but you still won’t be able to use your system during a blackout because you’re tied to the grid. A gas-powered or solar generator can serve as a back-up source in cases of blackouts.
  • I have an off-grid system: You most likely do not need a back-up generator if you have a large battery bank in an off-grid system. If you’re concerned about having enough sunlight to keep your batteries full, a back-up generator can give you increased peace of mind.

Conclusion

Solar generators are a great way to make sure you can keep the lights on no matter the circumstances. Although gas-powered generators can serve as a reliable back-up source in case of blackouts or if your panels aren’t producing enough energy, when you add the clean and sustainable pros of solar generators into the equation, it’s easy to see why they’re such a popular and powerful option for so many individuals.