By Corrie Bosket, Industry Analyst, September 15, 2017 at 9:31 AM PT
One of the most significant problems that can occur during a disaster is a loss of electricity. Power loss can lead to many negative consequences such as inoperable fueling stations, limited or non-existent city water supplies, reduced functionality of emergency services, inactive fire alarms and security systems, the inability for homes and buildings to regulate temperatures, challenges for food availability and preparation, and non-working computing and communication devices. It is for these reasons that it is advantageous to have a renewable emergency power plan. Solar power is an excellent choice for an emergency power plan because it does not require the use of fuel, does not pollute the environment, and can easily be installed in a wide variety of locations. It is important to note that a typical grid-tied solar electric system cannot provide power during an outage because it has a safety feature that shuts off the solar power when the utility grid fails. This prevents the solar power from feeding back into the utility grid while people are working to fix it. Designed by State Renewable Energy, this emergency power plan uses a specially designed solar electric system that has a transfer switch enabling it to provide electricity when the grid is working as well as during power outages. This means that this system will provide clean, renewable energy to the local power grid during normal conditions as well as produce sustainable emergency power during a power grid failure. When integrated into key locations within a city, these emergency solar power systems are a great asset to have during a crisis.
The Power Plan
The diagram to the left shows how to design a hybrid solar electric system using a transfer switch or hybrid inverter to effectively provide emergency electricity during a power grid failure. The gray boxes are the grid-tied side of the system and the green boxes are the off-grid side of the system that would function during a power failure.
Fueling stations need electricity to operate. Without power, the pumps and payment devices will not work and the fuel cannot be distributed to the customers. It is critical to keep these stations working during a crisis because they provide the fuel people need to travel and operate back-up generators. Most fueling stations have adequate amounts of flat roof space convenient for installing solar panels because they can easily be mounted with the proper solar orientation.
The pumping of city water uses vast amounts of electricity. It is important to keep this water flowing during an extensive power failure. By using solar electricity, water supplies can continue to flow, providing water for drinking, cleaning, agricultural, and sanitation. etc. Water tanks and reservoirs are usually located on or underneath empty land. Developing this land often comes with restrictions that keep it from getting used. Installing solar power on this land is a great way to put it to good use.
Emergency service buildings need to have reliable backup power. This is usually created by a diesel generator. Solar power can be used to supplement diesel generators to reduce the amount of fuel needed to keep these places operational during a time when fuel supplies can be limited. Fire stations, police stations and hospitals can add solar electricity to their buildings to operate their life safety equipment, computing systems and communication devices during a prolonged power failure.
Public buildings that are powered by solar electricity can provide public assistance during a crisis. They can be used for preparing, storing, and distributing food, for providing temperature controlled shelter, and for distributing disaster relief items such as blankets and first-aid kits. Libraries, schools and community centers can be equipped with solar power to provide people with access to electricity for charging and using computers, cell phones and radios during a major power outage.