news - March 2020
Resilient Energy Design
It's time to prepare for fire season with solar capture and battery storage.
By Douglas Weinstein
IT’S STARTING TO GET CLOSE TO FIRE SEASON AGAIN for large parts of North America. Now, stop for just a second and get your head around that – we now have official fire seasons. Not to mention fiercer tornadoes and hurricanes and other horrific weather patterns that are only going to worsen over time.
Energy companies are already faced with ancient electrical grids and California’s Pacific Gas & Electric is under tremendous pressure because they have maintained their power lines so poorly – resulting in wildfires that received widespread media attention last year – that they have to resort to authorized blackouts whenever there’s a remote possibility of high winds, much less drought conditions or dried out vegetation.
All trends forecasted point directly to our antiquated energy grid approach as a main culprit in reliable and resilient energy production and transmission. Access to power for our homes, our cars, and our phones is becoming less reliable in parts of the country and that trend is projected to continue across more and more of the nation.
Fuel-based backup systems that rely on natural gas, diesel, or propane are the entry point for a backup power system but have serious drawbacks cooked into the soup. Gasoline and diesel degrade over time and can only power the system for so many hours. Natural gas pipelines can be turned off in emergencies to prevent fires. So if the power grid goes down, there is a likelihood that pipelines would also be taken offline.
solar capture – battery storage
Here’s the weird part of solar – most residential systems are connected to the grid without an ability to function when the grid goes down. Utilities don’t want solar setups to feed power to the grid when their workers are working on energy lines, so they’ve built in safety protocols to prevent that from happening.
This also means that in many cases you can’t draw power directly from your solar install unless you have an inverter installed that kicks the solar system on directly to your AC in case of a grid blackout. Obviously that works great during the day when the sun is out. Not so much when it’s dark outside.
The most reliable and resilient energy design is solar capture and battery storage. Properly designed and installed with the ability to disconnect from the grid and supply power to the residence, the only remaining issues are energy capacity and preference of the materials that go into batteries.
For the luxury performance home, during times when the house is off the grid, homeowners will still want some HVAC capability to protect the environment and those lovely carpets, drapes, paintings, etc. And HVACs suck up power! That’s why each residence has to decide what capacity they can afford to store.
We’ve written about several companies leading the way in residential battery storage – Tesla , sonnenBatterie , and Rosewater Energy . There are more emerging and we think this is the future for performance micro-grid energy design.