In the Face of Climate Disaster, Solar and Storage Deliver Resilient, Adaptable Solutions
Wednesday, Aug 02 2023
Casa Pueblo in Puerto Rico. Photo courtesy of Isabela Zawistowska/Honnold Foundation. The Honnold Foundation worked with Casa Pueblo to design and build Puerto Rico’s first cooperatively managed, community-owned solar microgrid.
In the face of increasingly extreme weather, improving the climate resilience of our energy infrastructure has never been more urgent. Dangerous heatwaves, devastating hurricanes and unpredictable weather patterns are threatening millions of Americans and putting unprecedented stress on America’s electrical grid.
Time and time again, solar energy has demonstrated its value through reliability in the face of extreme weather, providing safety and stability when communities need it most.
Solar and storage solutions are empowering communities with the tools they need to build resilience, helping consumers harness electricity in ways that best fit their needs and fortify America’s energy infrastructure from the impacts of climate change.
Here’s how some states are leading the way on solar resilience.
Texas’ Solar-Supported Grid
This summer, Texas has endured a lengthy, dangerous heatwave. As the state broke temperature records and Texans cranked up their air conditioning, energy demand rose dramatically, and experts worried that the state’s electrical grid may not be able to keep up.
However, thanks to the wave of new solar and battery storage being added to Texas’ grid, power has stayed on, and prices haven’t spiked.
Over the past two years, Texas has doubled its solar capacity by adding 9.7 gigawatts of solar, the most of any state in the country. Texas has also installed over 1.8 GWac of utility-scale storage projects, helping to increase the dispatchability of clean energy any time of day.
Even as temperatures have soared into the triple digits and thermal energy sources experienced outrages, renewables are stepping up to provide 30 to 40% of the state’s power needs in peak hours.
These heatwaves aren’t slowing down, and solar and storage systems are one of the best tools we have for improving the reliability and predictability of America’s grid.
Florida’s Template for Solar Resilience
In the Southeast, hurricanes are one of the most dangerous forms of extreme weather, and hotter temperatures in gulf waters are supercharging these deadly storms.
When a hurricane hits, electricity infrastructure and utility lines can be severely damaged, leaving families vulnerable for extended periods of time. Last year, Hurricane Ian ripped through southwest Florida and left 2.6 million customers without power.
During Hurricane Ian, Babcock Ranch, a 100% solar-powered community outside of Fort Myers, did not lose power. The community’s 700,000-panel array and battery backup kept power flowing to all 2,000 homes even as the storm raged outside.
With the help of solar and storage, Babcock Ranch was able to bounce back immediately and has become a model example for building resilient solar systems. Babcock Ranch now holds an annual summit for builders and developers who want to understand how to build stronger, more sustainable communities.
Puerto Rico’s Innovative Microgrids
In 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and homes, businesses, and much of the island’s energy infrastructure were destroyed.
The power outages were deadly, and some communities were left without power for nearly a year. Advocates and nonprofits are now pushing to develop community-led, climate-resilient solutions throughout Puerto Rico.
Earlier this year, Casa Pueblo, a community organization in the mountain town of Adjuntas, launched a new community-owned solar microgrid. The organization already provides power to more than 350 homes and businesses, and the new microgrid will power 14 additional businesses and keep the community running for 10 days on back-up power if the grid fails again.
Local advocates see the microgrid in Adjuntas as a model for the rest of Puerto Rico. The project allows communities to control their energy decisions and collectively own the infrastructure they rely on, helping to strengthen community resilience and fortify Puerto Rico’s electricity system.
The examples in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico show that solar, storage, and microgrids are a vital part of any climate resilience plan. Solar and storage deliver greater reliability for the electric grid, safeguard families from the worst impacts of extreme weather, and help communities build a more resilient future.
As climate change continues to intensify, it’s clear that solar and storage are ready to step up to the plate and play a leading role in any climate resilience plan.