The Cause of Blackouts:
California is experiencing rolling blackouts throughout the state during a time when we are experiencing both heat waves and a pandemic. Energy is the most necessary resource in society today! We depend on energy to keep us warm, keep us cool, help us travel, and so on. You can see how blackouts pose a problem, I’m sure. PG&E controls the switch in San Francisco that decides who has access to power and when. This is leaving between 1-2 million people without access to power, such as AC. What a perfect example of exactly what’s wrong with highly centralized, inflexible structures such as the PG&E power grid. They attempt to serve energy to most of Coastal and Central California. Why you may ask, is centralization responsible for these blackouts? Well, when you look at the facts, centralization that seems to be the culprit.
Centralization is the concentration of the control for providing services and goods under a singular authority or system. Some examples include grocery stores (as opposed to local farmers markets) and gas & electric supply companies (as opposed to individual solar systems or other micro-grid solutions). Often, people believe that the centralization of power production and distribution is most helpful to consumers. Some of the reasons people support centralization are larger profit margins for big businesses, large-scale accessibility, and ease. But what California is currently facing is proof of why this simply isn’t the case.
There are three main reasons blackouts have continuously plagued California. Either wildfires are affecting the energy distribution system (think power lines falling), there is a high risk of wildfires (so keeping power lines running over a long distance is too risky), or the demand of energy in peak seasons is too high for the system to accommodate. For more information about California blackouts, click here.
Unfortunately, as we see more and more drastic weather patterns due to climate shift, we will undoubtedly see more demand for power to help us cope with intense heat, and possibly more need to cut power to mitigate risks associated with carrying power over long distances. As it turns out it’s a huge fire hazard to send power over large distances in the drought prone landscape of California; not only do sparks pose a risk in often windy back country, somewhere around 8-15% of energy is lost as heat when traveling through power lines. Wasteful and dangerous in a parched environment.
How Can We Solve California’s Blackout Pandemic?
Cue one possible solution: right now, there is a push toward creating smaller, localized power grids, coining the term “micro-grids.” They represent an opportunity to move toward decentralization, in favor of local decision making in times of emergency (like now) to disconnect from the larger grid. This can reduce the threat of power lines causing fires as they cross wide swathes of land and provide more stable access to energy for the individual. The idea behind a micro-grid is for communities to produce, store and distribute energy locally. Ideally, green alternative energy sources, like wind and solar, would be used in homes, businesses, and communities.
Since they serve smaller communities there is less need for power to be run across distances. During peak seasons when the weather is the most extreme, California residents will be able to generate their own energy and won’t be stuck without AC. There will be less stress on the central system, or “macro-grid”. Many areas of California are abundant with solar and wind, which means opportunities to expand energy production abound. Plus, there are so many benefits to using micro-grids and keeping control of them within the jurisdiction of localities. On a large scale, communities and even states can benefit from longer term energy savings once infrastructure is in place.
So why would more localized control over energy production and distribution be important? Simple really, with more individualized control comes a more comprehensive focus on what communities actually need. Micro-grid technology puts the power back in the hands of the people (pardon the pun). This solution could potentially create more jobs within local communities rather than at far off distribution plants. It creates independent energy resilience for communities that might otherwise be subject to shut offs which they would have little to no control over. For more information on micro-grid technology, click here.
Currently, the technology to accommodate the energy needs of large communities, where the grid falls short, already exists. Take home solar batteries for example. There is a model in the market which can instantly disconnect from the grid into “island-mode” and provide independent access to power generated from an individual home’s solar panels. Keep in mind; in a time of blistering heat waves, energy independence could be the one thing that keeps us cool.
With this in mind, BarrierEnergy certainly has a deeper appreciation for codified laws requiring all new homes in California to include solar ready space. Give us a call today, and we will get you on track to energy independence.