Ever since PG&E announced they may be shutting off power for two days or more during extreme weather events, we’ve been getting lots of calls and emails asking about batteries and generators.

“How much will it cost to add batteries to my solar system? How much does a generator cost”? These are questions we’re hearing a lot these days. 

The answer to either question is “it depends”, and on a lot more things than you might imagine!

The short answers are –

  • The cost to add battery backup to a solar system depends on how much is being backed up, for how long, and whether it’s a brand new or an existing solar system. For instance, adding batteries to a new solar system to power a refrigerator, lights and some outlets for a TV and internet service for four days with no sun could add $12,000 to the total installation cost. Details matter. For just one example, a 1991 20 cubic foot refrigerator/freezer will use six times more electricity than a new Energy Star model so, if that’s what you have, you’ve reduced your days of autonomy in this example from four days to less than two. Adding additional refrigerators or freezers, air conditioning, a well pump, and laundry equipment could increase the cost by $50,000 or more, depending on the type of batteries used.

It takes different, more costly equipment to work with batteries, so it costs less to add battery backup capability to a new solar system than an existing one because you don’t need any new or additional equipment.

  • A generator is typically the cheaper option but, like battery backup, the cost depends on what you want running when your power gets shut off. What you’d need might range in price from a few hundred dollars for a small gasoline generator and some extension cords to $20,000 or more for a whole-house propane or natural gas-powered generator. There are also UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) units that can provide immediate power to small critical loads such as computers or life-safety devices.

Don’t fall for quick and easy answers. A knowledgeable expert will take the time to make sure you’re getting what you need, no more, no less.

Extra Resources:  Public Safety Power Shutoff tips – https://prepareforpowerdown.com/

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Continue to Part 2 – Practical Considerations for Power Outages


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Power backups using batteries and generators in Northern California are a major issue and topic of conversation our community. PG&E is proposing power outages for Nevada County, Grass Valley, Nevada City, Penn Valley, North San Juan, Auburn and surrounding Placer and El Dorado Counties. Not only will PG&E by shutting down power for maintenance in Northern California, they may also shut down full power lines due to fires and other public safety issues. Stay tuned for more information on power outages in California, Nevada County and Surrounding areas.