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PG&E Power Outage Leave Hundreds and Thousands in the Dark
October 11, 2019
In this week’s livestream, Pick My Solar CEO & Co-Founder, Max Aram, joins Patrick to talk about the PG&E power outage that occurred last week in Northern California. We go over PG&E’s largest Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) event, who it affected, and what can be done to mitigate future issues where we find ourselves in need of energy.
What is a Public Safety Power Shutoff
Last Tuesday, PG&E announced to its customers of a Public Safety Power Shutoff event that affected up to 800,000 customers in 34 counties in the Bay Area of Northern California. Some of these counties included customers in Marin, Sonoma, Napa, and Solano where the October 2017 fires took place. Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) usually take place to mitigate any high concerns or risks of a potential fire. As a result, utilities like PG&E, will shut off energy to homeowners as well as those not in targeted weather-risk locations . This event went into place amid concerns of high fire risks due to gusty winds and dry conditions.
Because severe weather conditions are unpredictable and can last for several hours or even a few days, families should be prepared for outages with durations of 48 hours or more. Families should prepare in advance to ensure they are ready for worst-case scenarios. For individuals who require additional medical or life support devices to treat medical conditions, PG&E has a Medical Baseline Program that allows recipients a discounted rate on their monthly energy bill. In addition, they will receive extra notifications in the event of a PSPS.
PG&E Power Restoration Begins 24-48 Hours at the End of Severe Weather Events
As part of PG&E’s goal to protect the safety of the general public, it may take several days to restore power to their customers due to the large number of those affected. Activities that take place to restore power to over 800,000 customers include inspecting over 24,000 miles of distribution lines and over 2,400 miles of transmission lines. Clearing vegetation is another fire-prevention activity that takes place as part of the restoration.
De-stressing the Utility Grid with Solar+Battery
It is up to utilities to provide more resources on maintaining the grid, understanding the needs of the grid to ensure it is stable, reliable, and safe. With new technologies such as solar and battery, it makes the adoption of other energy sources more accessible. But what can the combination of solar and battery do to de-stress the grid? When power goes out for you, battery storage can operate in a closed-loop system. That means you can use your battery storage to store the energy it produces during the day from your panels and deploy it during peak times (evenings), or when stress on the grid is at its highest.
Max discusses two challenges that utilities and homeowners incur, peak hours and energy generation. The demand for energy is at its highest during the hours from 5pm-8pm–when the stress on the grid is at its highest. On the other hand, utilities are struggling to generate this energy to supply it to their customers. If more homeowners adopt this energy combination, this solves the problem of these challenges. When homeowners go solar, they go into a time-of-use rate plan where they store energy during the day and deploy it during times when the stress on the grid is at its highest. Not only does this solution help with the grid, your rate schedule will incentivize you and you gain energy independence you deserve all while saving money!
Questions Received During the Livestream
With the recent PG&E incident due to the sheer size of the grid and cost, will the residents see a spike in $/kW after repairs are done? And comparing the economics to solar+battery, which wins?
Historically, yes. You will see costs go up, regardless. PG&E has yearly updates and and has more irregular updates as needed. Solar alone, already wins with PG&E. Solar AND battery, also wins. On a 5 kW system, you can expect lifetime savings of $50,000-60,000.
Can you monitor how much energy the battery has stored during an outage?
Absolutely! Every battery will have a monitoring system that allows homeowners to assess their use as well as program when and how they want to use their energy.
Have a question for our team? Leave us a comment in the video above and we’ll get back to you next week!
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