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Running on batteries
Is solar power a viable option when the grid goes down?

12/11/14



Some 300,000 Granite Staters lost power at some point during the Thanksgiving snowstorm, including Dennis and Elizabeth Hager’s neighbors — but the Hagers themselves never did. 

The Hagers (Elizabeth is the former mayor of Concord) keep a suite at the Endicott Hotel in Concord, but with the hotel having lost power, they retreated to New Hampton, where they have a home off the grid. It has 12 solar panels, along with 12 gel batteries, which can run all the essentials. Dennis Hager said he has no problem running a dishwasher, computer and lights. 
“It’s fine if you don’t leave all the lights on,” he said. 
Dennis Hager used to have batteries with distilled water in them, which he would have to frequently refill. Now he has switched to gel batteries — think hair gel, he said — and they are no-maintenance. It’s just the second set of batteries in 20 years for the couple who uses the home nine months out of the year.
“It gets easier and easier to go solar because the panels get cheaper and better. As far as I’m concerned, if we have sunshine where we live we should have solar because it’s environmentally clean and renewable,” Dennis Hager said. “Going with this solar system has made me quite the believer in solar as a source of power.”
But not all homes with alternative energy sources maintained power, said PSNH spokesperson Lauren Collins. Unless those homes have back-up battery power, they’re just as susceptible to losing power.
“[The alternative energy homes] are mostly solar. They also lose power when the power goes out, because they are tied to the grid,” Collins said.
Gary Pond of Hopkinton, for example, has solar panels, and he lost power during the snowstorm. Pond said his panels have already generated 8,210 kilowatt hours of power since they were installed in February.
“I love the solar panels. I got a ground mount in there, and it’s a rugged one,” Pond said. 
But his solar array is grid-tied. 
“I still lose power because I don’t have batteries. Any extra hours [generated], they bank them,” he said.
Pond is now weighing the option and cost of a battery versus a small generator. He’s also researching factors like how long the batteries would last and whether they are difficult to dispose of.
Dann Batting of Chester only lost power briefly during the Thanksgiving storm. His solar array was installed in 2011 and provides power just to his home office.
“It’s a grid-tied system, so if I lose the grid, [solar] generates, but I can’t use it,” he said. 
Since he’s only using the solar power for one room in his house, Batting said he didn’t see the need for an energy storage system. 
“It would be beneficial if I could, but [buying a battery backup] was not that important,” he said.
 
Josh Rosenson occasionally contributes to the Dover-based Elecyr Corporation, a solar power and energy startup. 
 
As seen in the December 11, 2014 issue of the Hippo.





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