The effects of the catastrophic California wildfires in 2018 were numerous and far reaching. Many lost their lives and many of the survivors lost their homes as the worst fire in the state’s history ravaged the land.
It was determined that the cause of the fire was due to utility equipment. Under certain extreme weather conditions, there’s a higher likelihood of wildfires occurring due to the sparking of utility equipment.
A recent sfchronicle.com article highlights a small business owner that has chosen to invest even more into solar plus storage solutions to protect himself from power outages. According to the article a major California utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, has proposed planned power outages to prevent further fires from happening. It’s fair to assume that many others would also want to avoid planned power outages by being more energy self-sufficient.
Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar & Storage Association, mentioned an even greater and urgent need for solar plus storage solutions. “We have long thought that distributed solar was a critical component to preventing some of the worst impacts of climate change, but obviously, the wildfires and the grid’s role puts a whole new urgency to the deployment of distributed energy.”
The PG&E spokeman said that the company is “committed to solar power.” However, that has not seemed to be the case in practice. Del Chiaro points out that “you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that the way that they are structured, in terms of profit motive, does not leave a lot of room for their customers self-generating.” This is most certainly the situation, especially in states like Nevada and Arizona where the local utilities have battled the implementation of fair net metering laws.
In defense of PG&E, they have connected more than 360,000 solar households to the grid. There’s two major points to mention here, though. One is that an extremely high percentage of these installs have yet to implement energy storage solutions along with solar, meaning that these customers still draw significant amounts of energy from grid. The second point to make is that these residential installs have allowed the utility to avoid investments in future power plants. It’s therefore easy for a utility to claim to be residential solar friendly right now. This will not be the case once homeowners start adding energy storage along with their solar panel installations in high numbers.
So in addition to significant savings over the long term, more homeowners will be going solar and adding energy storage solutions to gain more control over the availability of the energy that they need. Just one more benefit of being a power owner instead of a continual power renter.