California’s latest wildfires reminds Charleston, South Carolina primarily based staffer Chris Carnevale of the Southeast coping with hurricanes and the advantages of distributed energy technology and storage.  

Chris Carnevale | January 2, 2020 | Climate Change, Extreme Weather, Utilities

Credit: Kari Greer/USFS Gila National Forest

It was heartbreaking to observe the information concerning the wildfires in California this fall. Drought and scorching climate, indicative of a warming world, have set the stage for dangerous wildfires in the West for years.

PG&E, California‘s largest power utility, has been responsible for a quantity of wildfires as a result of of defective tools in latest years and the corporate’s legal responsibility for these fires has pushed them to declare bankruptcy as they work out easy methods to attempt to fireproof, as finest they will, 1000’s of miles of traces. With this legal responsibility in thoughts, as dry, scorching, windy situations came across California this October, PG&E preemptively reduce power by the traces to thousands and thousands of clients to attempt to cut back the danger of their traces beginning a fireplace.

In late October, whereas power was out to massive numbers of clients for such a preemptive outage, an enormous fireplace broke out in Sonoma County (the Kincade Fire), which ended up burning almost 80,000 acres, injuring 4 individuals, destroying and damaging tons of of buildings, and prompting the evacuation of almost 200,000 individuals.

The entire state of affairs there obtained me enthusiastic about the advantages of distributed technology, energy storage, and microgrids in the face of climate dangers and main disasters. Apparently, there was an enormous surge in buyer curiosity of solar+batteries in the previous couple months, since PG&E has carried out the deliberate outages–and it appears for good purpose.

From the shoppers’ angle, the advantages of having electrical energy at your house whereas the grid goes down could be monumental. The advantages vary from easy consolation to life-vital power for medical units and every part in between (having the ability to hold your cellular phone charged and keep in contact/get updates concerning the catastrophe; holding meals and medication in your freezer and fridge from spoiling; having the ability to keep comfortably in your house till evacuation could turn out to be mandatory, and many others.).

From the utilities’ and public security angles, having the ability to cut back the load on the traces and reduce the quantity of traces minimizes wildfire danger and legal responsibility.

And from the climate angle, transitioning to extra distributed renewables and batteries as a substitute of fossil gas power technology would, of course, assist mitigate world warming air pollution that contributes to fireplace danger, as nicely.

What’s taking place in California with the wildfires jogs my memory of how the Southeast is pressured to cope with hurricanes. As somebody who has been evacuated for hurricanes 3 times in the previous 4 years, I actually really feel for the California evacuees. I ponder if these rounds of fires and PG&E’s legal responsibility will outcome in some severe reexaminations of the normal power grid and experiments with microgrids–and maybe present classes discovered that the Southeast can profit from as nicely. I hope so.

Read the ‘Solar in the Southeast’ 2018 Annual report to see which utilities are ahead, and which are behind in solar.

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