Thursday, August 27, 2009

Solar Knowledge: What is a Backup Generator?

Backup GeneratorBackup Generator
AKA: gas guzzler

Off-grid solar-electric systems can be sized to provide electricity during cloudy periods when the sun doesn’t shine. But sizing a system to cover a worst-case scenario, like several cloudy weeks during the winter, can result in a very large, expensive system that will rarely get used to its capacity. To spare your pocketbook, size the system moderately, but include a backup generator to get through those occasional sunless stretches.

Engine generators can be fueled with biodiesel, petroleum diesel, gasoline, or propane, depending on the design. These generators produce AC electricity that a battery charger (either standalone or incorporated into an inverter) converts to DC energy, which is stored in batteries. Like most internal combustion engines, generators tend to be loud and stinky, but a welldesigned solar-electric system will require running them only 50 to 200 hours a year.

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