A significant eclipse and two major hurricanes in 2017 have given rise to a new idea for keeping the electric supply more stable: microgrids.
Here are some of the highlights in solar energy news this year.
A major solar eclipse crossed the country on Monday, August 21. Coming as it did during peak load times and during the peak production season for solar electricity in the continental US, it was an opportunity to study how solar electricity impacts the grid.
While there were dire predictions of brown outs and other system failures, none of the predicted problems materialized. In fact, the temporary decrease in solar electricity production showed how resilient the grid is.
The eclipse, which obscured the sun to such a degree that solar power generation dropped to zero in some areas, gave electric utility operators hand-on experience in managing the mix of renewable and traditional power sources. This is important knowledge as renewables, particularly solar and wind, make up an increasing portion of power generation capacity across the US and around the globe.
In the late summer and fall, the future of solar was put to another test when two major hurricanes made landfall.
The first struck the Texas Gulf Coast on August 25, resulting in power outages for approximately 300,000 homes. Like the eclipse, Hurricane Harvey continued to draw attention to one of the issues highlighted by the eclipse: the stability of the electric grid when electricity production, whether from traditional or renewable sources, is interrupted.
The area where Harvey made landfall is responsible for a significant portion of the oil and gas production in the use. In the days following the massive storm’s landfall, oil and gas production experiences a significant decline because of the storm’s impact.
A little less than one month later, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, wiping out the power grid and leaving millions without electricity because the power grid, in poor repair before the storm, was effectively wiped out. Since then, the island has had a series of struggles in restoring power to many areas of the island.
Tesla founder Elon Musk grabbed headlines when he coordinated a solar panel installation that restored power to a hospital in late October. This feat introduced a glimmer of hope for the devastated island, and the current conversation about the future of Puerto Rico’s electric utility will depend heavily on renewable resources.
As we wrap up 2017, the events that have transpired this year point to a new direction for the development of solar energy: the microgrid. Microgrids are a localized system that can be connect to or disconnected from the traditional electric utility grid. The appeal of a microgrid system is in the flexibility the speed with microgrids can be restored after a storm or other catastrophe causes a loss in power.
Get ready for 2018 and take your first step to be prepared for what every unfolds in the coming year by scheduling a solar consultation.