What Happens To Unused Generated Solar Power?


Whenever people discuss solar power, there’s usually a question of what to do if the system doesn’t generate enough power. Maybe there isn’t enough direct sunlight, or the system can’t capture enough while the sun is still out. But would you ever have too much solar power? Is that even possible?

Yes, you can find yourself in a situation where your solar power system generates too much power, leaving some unused. What happens then? You might save some in batteries, ‘sell’ it back to your power company or just waste that energy. It all depends on your setup.

To understand the what’s and the why’s of excess solar power, let’s take a closer look at a few points.

Why Would I Have Unused Generated Solar Power?

You might have unused or excess generated solar power because of changes in the climate or changes in your household usage.

If you already have a solar power system for your home, the odds are that you’ve already done the math. You know that system is the ideal size for your household and the energy you need. So why would you end up with unused generated solar power?

For starters, your solar panels may receive a lot more sunlight than usual during the summertime. Days are longer and nights are shorter, and your solar panels will continue doing their job for as long as there’s sunlight available.

Secondly, your electricity usage around the home may have changed over the years. Ask yourself this: when did you first buy your solar panels? Solar systems last for decades, and in that time, newer household appliances continue to become more energy efficient.

On top of that, you may have fewer people living at home now. With fewer people in the house, your overall power consumption drops even though your solar system generates the same amount.

Should I Be Worried About Excess Solar Power?

No, you don’t have to worry about unused or excess generated solar power. You need to understand that unused generated solar power is not dangerous. Some people might consider it a waste, but it’s not harmful. 

You see, all the components in home solar energy systems these days are engineered with safety in mind. So, forget about any ‘nightmare scenarios’ involving fires or explosions; the risk of that stuff happening is just too low.

When your solar energy system generates more power than you need, the system will taper down how much power it transmits from the panels. To give you a simplified explanation: your system will slow itself down when you’re not using any solar energy.

The only thing you should ask yourself is; are you benefitting from that excess solar power? With all you’ve invested in your solar energy system, you should be benefitting from that unused generated solar power! 

What Can I Do With Unused Generated Solar Power?

There are two ways you can harness unused generated solar power…by storing it in batteries, or by selling it back to your power company.

Stored In Batteries

Just in case you didn’t know, you can have a functioning solar power system at home that doesn’t involve batteries. Still, many people understand that there are plenty of benefits to including batteries in their system.

Whether you’re using an on-grid system (where you still connect your home to your local power grid) or an off-grid one (where you’re disconnected from the grid and relying only on solar), batteries are always a great idea.

For one thing, batteries allow your solar energy system to store unused generated solar power. So, for example, your batteries will store any excess energy the system captures during the day time. At night (when there’s no sunlight), you’ll continue getting a steady supply of energy thanks to those batteries.

Some people use multiple batteries formed into what’s called ‘battery banks’. These consist of several batteries all connected and can store much more unused solar energy for later use.

‘Sell’ It Back To Your Power Company

Aside from batteries, some people also sell any unused energy back to their energy companies. That’s something called ‘Net Metering’. Essentially, your home will have two electricity meters; one to measure how much power you use from the grid, and one to calculate how much your household puts back into the grid.

Whenever your solar energy system generates unused solar power, your system will transmit it back to the power grid. Other people will end up using the power that you generate, and you’ll get paid in return.

Typically, the power company will pay you in the form of credits. So, whatever excess energy you generate will be counted against the energy you consume from the grid. Overall, you’ll end up paying less money (and maybe generating a few dollars of your own) through this arrangement.

For this type of setup, two things need to happen. Firstly, you need to have an ‘on-grid’ format for your home solar energy system. Second, your local power company needs to support this type of initiative.

These days, an increasing number of local power companies are hopping on board the renewable energy train. They’ll probably have programs or initiatives targeted at people with solar energy systems at home.

So, once you’ve signed up with them, they’ll help you set up everything you need to start benefiting from the Net Metering process.

What Happens When Solar Batteries Are Full?

When your solar batteries are full, your solar charge controller will reduce the flow of electricity to them. Then, it’ll only let a ‘trickle’ charge happen…just enough to keep your batteries charged at a safe level.

In any fully-equipped solar energy system, there’s a component called a solar charge controller. This device regulates how much power flows through the system and into the batteries. In doing so, it helps you to maximize the lifespans of your batteries.

The solar charge controller does this by preventing two things: over and under-charging. Overcharging will cause a battery to overheat, and reduce its overall lifespan. Undercharging is also harmful, as it’ll lead to a lack of performance from the batteries.

So, to put it simply, when your batteries are full, the solar charge controller will reduce the flow of electricity.

What To Do If Solar Batteries Are Always Full

If your solar panels are getting more sunlight than necessary, all that unused energy from the sun will just convert into heat.

Suppose your batteries are full and you have an off-grid solar energy system. We all know from our basic science classes in school that energy doesn’t just disappear, right? So what happens to the energy coming from all that sunlight?

Well, it just converts to heat. Your solar panels might get a little bit warmer than usual, but that’s nothing to be worried about.

What Can You Do About Unused Generated Solar Power?

So, what can you do with all that excess solar power?

If you prefer to store every bit of solar energy you generate, you could invest in more battery capacity. If you’d like to save even more money, you could sign up for any Net Metering program that your power company might offer. Lastly, you could downsize your solar energy system overall. With fewer panels and components, you could meet your energy needs while reducing the need for maintenance.

Excess power won’t damage your panels or your system, as it will dissipate as heat. Really, it just comes down to not wanting to waste the energy that your system has produced. Remember to check with solar experts in your area to see what kinds of options or programs you might have access to.

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