This seems like a self-evident truth, the idea that more homes with portable power, such as solar, would decrease power outages, but it bears repeating, and so, someone has.
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The output from that incremental solar or storage system would have supplied the electricity needs of that home — and the excess solar or battery power would have flowed back to the local grid, reducing the load on that transformer and preventing its failure.
High temperatures and new electric vehicle demands are causing outages like this all over California. Solar power coupled with battery storage is the cleanest and most cost-effective solution to this problem, but only if these systems are deployed in the right place.
The challenge is to get the power from remote utility solar plants to the homes and businesses that need it. Unfortunately, the local power grid is the weakest link, and it is expensive to modernize neighborhood grids to meet today’s higher power demands and two-way energy flows.
There are two solutions to modernizing overloaded local grids. The “business as usual” solution is to pay the local utility for upgrades that include bigger transformers, wiring, control systems and battery storage. Unfortunately, ratepayers get stuck with higher electric bills for this.
A much better solution is to encourage homeowners and businesses to install their own solar and storage systems. These customer-owned “Behind the Meter” (BTM) energy systems do not require expensive transmission and distribution grid upgrades. Since investments in them are made by homeowners and businesses, utility ratepayers are not burdened with upgrade costs.
With over half a million solar-powered homes and businesses, California leads the country in both solar power generation and solar jobs. This was the result of public policies that encouraged solar installations. As a result, solar costs have come down so much over the past 15 years that incentives are no longer needed.
We have the same opportunity now with battery storage systems as California moves toward an electric grid powered 100 percent by renewables. Two policies will help us achieve this goal.
The next step for solar to be effective is home battery storage systems. A state law would provide incentives to install them, reducing the chance of major power failures from the grid.