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Potential PG&E outage for 2 to 5 days will render residential solar useless
A Manteca residential solar installation that was put in place by Honey’s Air & Solar,

In the event that PG&E does cut power to Manteca and its surrounding communities to eliminate wildfire threat in the Sierra, even those that have installed solar panels on their homes will be in the dark. 

According to Todd Filbrun, the owner of Manteca-based Kurios Energy, the traditional residential solar panel systems that people have installed on their homes to cut down on energy bills rely on connectivity to the existing power grid so that excess energy that is not being used can backflow onto transmission lines – sometimes generating revenue for the homeowners that are producing the power. 

When those lines go dead, so does the technology that powers the solar system.

“Essentially, the inverter for the solar system has a safety feature so that you can’t back feed onto transmission lines that are down because people may be working on them,” Filbrun said. “Once they sense the loss of power, the inverter shuts down and the system isn’t operational. 

“The only way that a solar system can operate when the lines are dead is if there is a battery system installed, and those aren’t designed to power a whole house for up to five days.”

While there are home batteries available that are capable of powering most of a residential home for a period of time – Tesla manufactures one specifically for that purpose – they aren’t, Filbrun said, designed to power an entire home for any length of time. 

Even state-of-the-art batteries, he said, are too small to handle things like an air conditioner while maintaining power for the rest of the house – even when tied into a solar system.

The only option that residents who want to maintain power actually have, according to Filbrun, is to purchase and install a generator with the relevant safety switches that prevents the dangerous backflow that keeps solar systems from operating. 

“We are a Tesla dealer and install a lot of those batteries, but that type of energy storage solution isn’t for five-day storage,” Filbrun said. “Anybody looking for something that is going to power their whole home is going to have to look at a generator at this point, and there are a number of natural gas and propane electric generators that tie into existing lines with a switch system. 

“We offer generators as well, but a battery isn’t going to get it done for the scenario people are currently looking to solve.”

The San Francisco-based power giant, which is currently in bankruptcy protection over the massively destructive wildfires that were caused by the company’s lines, has announced that as part of a new wildfire safety program the power to certain populated areas along transmission routes may be cut off for up to five days. The announcement has caused mild panic among residents and business owners who are concerned about food storage, lost revenue, and even electrical medical devices that must be connected to power in order to function, and the company has been visiting municipalities that may be affected to offer as much information as is currently available to quell those fears. 

Generator sales have spiked tremendously over the course of the last month – Bass Pro Shops, for example, sent out a targeted ad to social media users living in Manteca to let them know that they have them in stock – prompting several small businesses to sell out of them while cities scramble to make the permitting process clearer for residents to ensure that they are safely connected to residential systems. 

Those searching for more information about battery backup systems or natural gas-powered generators can contact Manteca-based Kurios Energy at 209.599.1111.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.