Dated grid undermines PV in hurricane blackout

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As the inhabitants of East Coast America get to grips with the mess left by Hurricane Sandy, debate has inevitably been raging over whether the storm was the latest sign of a rapidly changing climate. Both candidates in the US presidential race have been noticeably reticent in making any public comments on Sandy’s significance in the wider climate change narrative, though some prominent politicians have been more vocal, notably New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo, who said that “anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns, I think is denying reality”.

For those who agree with him and believe that this trend of changing weather patterns is a result of human activity, Hurricane Sandy would seem to be the perfect justification for a ramping up of clean technologies such as solar that, if it’s not already too late, could help avert further disasters.

As it happens, it looks as though the fabric of East Coast America’s rooftop solar installations held out remarkably well under the Sandy onslaught. According to press reports in the wake of the hurricane, rooftop solar units in neighbourhoods that had been otherwise laid to waste by the storm were left relatively unscathed.

This is perhaps not altogether surprising, given that PV units are designed to withstand freak weather conditions. Several US installers issued guidance to customers ahead of the storm reassuring them that no special measures were needed to secure rooftop units, as they were “designed, installed and inspected to the most challenging local weather conditions”, in the words of one installer, Sunrun.

Where they were less useful, however, was in continuing to provide their owners with electricity throughout a power blackout that affected some 7.5 million people across 15 states. As Sunrun and others reminded their customers, grid-tied domestic PV systems are designed to shut down during a utility power outage, even though they remain energised.

What this meant was that although still technically functioning, none of the PV systems in areas of the US hit by power blackouts were actually generating electricity. So solar owners who were smugly anticipating being able to carry on watching real-time TV coverage of the storm while their neighbours sat in darkness would in fact have found themselves in exactly the same boat. As installer Realgoods Solar instructed its customers: “Please have extra candles, flashlights and batteries on hand.” In other words, your expensive solar units will be useless if the grid goes down.

This highlights a wider problem that the US and other countries will have to contend with as they look to install increasing volumes of renewable generation capacity: that centralised grid systems are clumsy and ill-suited to these next-generation technologies. They’re vulnerable to extreme weather events such as Sandy (which judging by recent trends are only going become more frequent), difficult to fix if they go wrong and do not make the best use of the inherent resilience of decentralised generation systems.

What Sandy laid bare is that without significant investment in smart grids and distributed power networks backed up by energy storage systems, renewable energy technologies will never be able to live up to their potential in keeping the lights on.



22 September 2021
To commemorate the World Energy Storage Day(WESD) on 22 September, being recognized worldwide, Customized Energy Solutions (CES) and India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA) is organising the 5th global conference and virtual expo, which will be held virtually on 22 September 2021. WESD is a global movement initiated by various apex trade bodies working to promote and adopt energy storage, e-mobility & green hydrogen technologies for a sustainable future. The forthcoming edition of WESD is expected to attract global participation with an intent to facilitate bi-lateral trade, market development and new research and innovation, which will invite 100+ countries, 100+ regulators & policy makers, 100+ International speakers,1000+ organisations, 100+ partners & exhibitors and 20,000+ global delegates.
28 September 2021
Solar Solutions International is the largest trade show for solar energy in Northwest Europe. Now the solar market has grown up, it's time for the next step. Solar Solutions International displays more than 500 innovations and over 100 practical seminars concerning the latest in energy storage, smart products, and an ever evolving array of solar panels. As an exclusively B2B trade show, Solar Solutions International offers both exhibitors and visitors the chance to network at the highest level. Duurzaam Verwarmd, the largest trade show for sustainable HVAC technology in the Benelux, is held simultaneously. This way your one visit gets you up to date with all of the developments in both sustainable energy and heating.
6 October 2021
Intersolar Europe is the world’s leading exhibition for the solar industry. It takes place as part of The smarter E Europe – the continent’s largest platform for the energy industry. Under the motto “Connecting solar business,” manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, service providers and project planners and developers from around the world meet in Munich every year to discuss the latest developments and trends, explore innovations firsthand and meet potential new customers.
6 October 2021
The future is bright for a new era of US solar and storage, and the 8th annual Solar & Storage Finance Summit will provide opportunities to discuss solutions to the industry’s challenges and provide a networking platform designed to bring together the top minds in the industry to do business. With a mix of high-level, informative presentations and panels, a stellar cast of speakers and audience members with deal-making capacity, the 2021 edition of the event will be a sell-out success.
18 October 2021
Intersolar South America, South America’s largest exhibition and conference for the solar industry, takes place at the Expo Center Norte in São Paulo, Brazil on October 18–20, 2021, and has a focus on the areas of photovoltaics, PV production and solar thermal technologies. At the accompanying Intersolar South America Conference, renowned experts shed light on hot topics in the solar industry.
19 October 2021
This year’s EV World Congress will hold a special role, not only as the first live EverythingEV event in over a year – a chance to renew your connections and re-engage with the EV sector face to face – but also as a chance to share insight and inspiration as world starts to look towards move on post COVID towards hitting ambitious decarbonisation goals in 2030 and beyond. As ever, we will be bringing world leading organisations, cities, and technology providers to the UK to inspire EV innovators, and delve into the challenges facing the sector as the UK looks to revolutionise road transport.

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