News, The Underappreciated Tool for Surviving Extreme Weather: detailed suggestions and opinions about The Underappreciated Tool for Surviving Extreme Weather.
Hint: Small is good. Also: batteries, batteries, batteries.
Week by week, thanks in large part to climate change, it seems we hear new stories of natural disasters and their horrific effects across the United States: hurricanes slamming Puerto Rico and Florida, droughts in the American Southwest, wildfires scorching the Pacific Northwest as well as punishing heat waves in Texas, incomprehensible flooding in Kentucky and Missouri and the Plains. All together, these horrorshow events have devastated millions of Americans and indicate grim times ahead.
But some communities and regions weathered the effects of these disasters better than others—and they all have something in common. Let’s scan some recent dispatches from especially hard-hit areas.
In Florida, the renewables-dependent “solar town” Babcock Ranch “endured Hurricane Ian with no loss of power and minimal damage,” CNN reported Sunday; days later, thousands of other Floridians are still enduring both. As Ian neared South Carolina shortly after, the state’s Emergency Management department explicitly recommended that vulnerable residents “keep a battery operated, solar-powered, or hand-crank-operated radio or television for use during power outages.”
Last month, Inside Climate News found that Puerto Ricans who had privately installed solar panels on the roofs of their homes and businesses retained power access while the island’s erratic grid collapsed after Hurricane Fiona. (The local government is now going ahead with a plan to install even more solar-power capacity.) Residential solar panels in California were obscured by smoke and cloud cover during the summer spate of wildfires, heavy rainstorms, and heat waves, but the amount of energy that existing panels had generated for battery-storage systems provided residents with days’ worth of power in the face of blackout scares.
The Oregon Military Department told an energy trade publication that its mostly solar-powered microgrid kept a readiness center’s air conditioning going during an unprecedented heat wave. Also in Oregon, the nonprofit Energy Trust noted that solar microgrids allowed hundreds of homes in wildfire-prone areas to maintain electricity access while the state cut off power from the main grid, in order to reduce the risk of blazes resulting from weather-sensitive utility equipment. And when Texas faced the risk of June blackouts thanks to record energy demand, wind and solar ended up providing one-third of the state’s power, the Dallas Morning News reported, thus lessening pressure on the local grid.
You can find even more examples if you stretch further into the past. A multiyear Department of Energy study whose findings were released just last month revealed that in 2020, power loss from hefty summer thunderstorms in both Iowa and Texas was effectively mitigated by solar supply. The researchers’ ultimate takeaway, after looking at historic weather disasters in various states from 2017–2020, was that “even a modest system of solar plus one battery can power critical loads in a home for days at a time, practically anywhere in the country,” as they wrote in the Conversation.