Natural Disasters: A Case for Energy Resiliency

Over the past few weeks wildfires have been raging throughout California and Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has been forced to shut off power to more than 2 million people. As winds pick up and humidity stays low, shutting off power is a necessary evil in the face of ever growing wildfire risk. It prevents electrical equipment from sparking even more fires but it leaves customers stranded in the dark without power or heat. Even for those who are able to hurry out and stock up on batteries, water, and other emergency supplies blackouts are still inconvenient. For those who are not able to do so, for those who are elderly, or handicapped, blackouts can be much more than just an inconvenience. 

Unfortunately we will never see an end to wildfires. The changing climate is creating a perfect storm to increase the severity and frequency not only of wildfires, but of many kinds of natural disasters that lead to dangerous power outages. The solution is no longer just prevention. What these communities need is a way to minimize risks and damages in the face of such disasters without being depended on an outdated power system.

They need resiliency without reliance.

They need distributed energy. 

They need microgrids. 

A distributed energy system differs from a conventional energy system in the location and quantity of energy production sites. In a distributed energy system, energy production happens at multiple locations in the distribution area instead of at one centralized location. This is significant in the face of planned blackouts because a distributed energy system can include homes and businesses that are powered by solar or other renewable resources and are not reliant on a utility company. 

Image result for energy grid
Traditional energy grid infrastructure

A microgrid is a localized energy system with autonomous control capacity. It is based on many energy sources such as solar, wind, CHP (combined heat and power) and often includes battery backup and intelligent automization services. Microgrids can be grid connected in order to take advantage of utility sponsored incentives but can also be off grid to provide independence and ensure resilience without reliance on the grid. They also help distributed energy resources communicate with one another in order to be most effective and as efficient as possible. Although Massachusetts is safe from wildfires, the East Coast is vulnerable to a number storms and destructive weather that can impede your business’ productivity. A microgrid will ensure that even when this year’s Nor’easter comes around, your business can continue making money. And even when the sun is shining, not only will you have peace of mind knowing your business is protected, but you can also participate in utility sponsored incentive programs which will pay you handsomely for the energy from your battery system. To learn more about microgrids read our recent blog post all about them! 

The transition to distributed energy and microgrids will not happen overnight. The necessary technology already exists and it is continuing to evolve. If political opinions and pressure from communities evolves as well, a renewable and resilient future is possible. 

Author: Emily Murad – Emily is a Digital Operations and Marketing Intern at NRGTree


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