After Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida’s Gulf coast, inflicting an estimated $40 billion in injury and killing practically 130 folks, new restoration efforts have been hampered by the straightforward incontrovertible fact that many houses and companies which remained with out electrical energy for a number of days. Whereas a lot of the 2.1 million houses that misplaced energy throughout the storm had been reconnected inside eight days of the catastrophe—a greater efficiency than earlier storms of comparable dimension, vitality grid specialists observed-many houses and companies in Sanibel and Ft. Myers Island misplaced energy six weeks in the past, forcing residents to relocate and delaying rebuilding.
Bloomberg columnist Liam Denning not too long ago steered that one strategy to keep away from long-term energy outages in communities weak to pure disasters, whereas making them simpler and extra vital to begin rebuilding, perhaps take steps so extra houses have photo voltaic panels on the roof and batteries to maintain going. to supply energy within the speedy aftermath of future damaging storms.
Whereas photo voltaic panels appear to be a easy, elegant resolution to post-hurricane vitality outages, widespread grid independence for Florida’s Gulf Coast or elsewhere—which is what Denning successfully advocates—is just not at present potential in a major measure. Working towards this aim as a substitute of doing extra to strengthen grid stability — which Florida utilities have finished, with nice success — will in the end be counterproductive.
At the moment, a house with state-of-the-art photo voltaic panels and a capacious (and costly) battery nonetheless wants exterior energy to run the air con more often than not, and day with out day its dependence on exterior energy turns into acute. Given the present value of such a setup, further incentives for photo voltaic panels-cum-batteries at dwelling will do little to vary the truth that they’ll largely profit the extra prosperous. proprietor of the home.
Moreover, present expertise doesn’t make it possible for a house or enterprise on the grid to proceed to attract energy from their photo voltaic panels when the grid is down.
Denning declared that Florida ought to change into a “solar-panel state,” stating that California and New York have extra rooftop panels than Florida. Nonetheless, California and New York have a lot increased electrical energy charges than Florida, exactly due to this distinction.
Florida additionally occurs to have a number of giant solar energy crops, and that mannequin could also be cheaper in the long term than small home-based photo voltaic and work.
Denning cited the expertise of Babcock Ranch, a brand new group in Southwest Florida, which he reported didn’t lose energy because of two “devoted” giant solar energy crops. What Denning missed was that two of the solar energy crops truly feed the vitality grid and never the group, and neither plant produced electrical energy throughout the storm—or the cloudy hours earlier than Ian. made landfall. Babcock Ranch founder Syd Kitson credited the native utility grid and a powerful grid for holding the lights on as Ian tore via Southwest Florida.
Whereas rising the quantity of vitality produced by photo voltaic vitality is usually a worthwhile aim for a lot of causes, it’s not at all an alternative to hurricane preparedness. We’re a good distance from a world the place houses and companies can depend on photo voltaic vitality they generate themselves, and with out vital advances in battery expertise we could not get there.
Including photo voltaic panels to the roof and a battery won’t make a house or enterprise proof against the damaging winds, storm surges and flooding that include damaging storms, and hurricane wants mustn’t will encourage regulators to encourage dwelling or business-based photo voltaic panels as a substitute of huge ones. -scale photo voltaic crops.