Solar + Storage in the Age of Severe Weather

With extreme weather looming in the future, the race for mainstream solar panels and storage is more urgent than ever.

It doesn’t take a climatologist to notice that the world around us is changing. NASA imaging has already documented observable effects of climate change, such as evidence of more intense droughts and shorter frost periods.

An easier-to-spot indicator? More intense hurricanes, like this year’s Irma, Harvey, Jose and Maria, which together wrought unprecedented damage on Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico.

This year, there have already been four hurricanes that measured over a category three level intensity—making it one of the most costly and deadly hurricane seasons in the past century. And while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says we can’t conclusively prove that this year’s elevated hurricane activity is directly attributable to climate change, it has found some statistical correlations between rising sea level temperatures and hurricane frequency, intensity, and duration.

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But while we can’t say for sure if this year’s storms happened because of climate change, almost all climate scientists agree that there will be changes in hurricane patterns as global warming advances. For instance, recent studies indicate that storms will grow less frequent—but more intense—meaning that highly destructive hurricane seasons, like 2017’s, may soon become the norm.

Solar + Storage Offers a Thin Silver Lining on a Stormy Hurricane Forecast

Within those gloomy climate predictions, however, there’s been one literal bright spot: solar + storage. Residential distributed solar, combined with improved battery technology has allowed homeowners to maintain energy and power during even the most extreme weather events.

As reported by Forbes, solar + storage-enabled households suffering the effects of Hurricane Harvey were able to power critical appliances, like water heaters, refrigerators, lighting and internet connections—even when the grid around them went down.

The weight of all that hasn’t been lost on city officials and power companies.

For instance, as recently as 2016, Utah Clean Energy had begun implementing a plan to incorporate solar and storage into critical facilities in their area. With intense and unpredictable weather in the forecast, that could make solar + storage a crucial part of local emergency preparedness plans.

Solar Emergency Preparedness Highlights Current Limitations with Storage

Of course, batteries aren’t exactly a magic bullet, either. To truly serve as a backup power source for long-term outages, batteries and panels must become much stronger than they are now. Essentially, homeowners are going to need something more efficient than the current lithium ion models for homes to operate without disruption during extreme weather events.

Fortunately, engineers, developers, and scientists are on the case. Early in 2017, for instance, researchers at RMIT University in Australia released a new battery technology that is up to 3000 times as efficient as current technology. These “fractal” electrodes can discharge energy much more quickly than any other solution before them.

Of course, solar + storage is only just beginning to penetrate the mainstream market, mainly in offerings that mirror the type of storage offered by the Tesla Powerwall system.

Any additional advancements will take several years to perfect—and even longer to catch on with the general public. But with weather patterns poised to take an extreme turn in the near future, new developments can’t come soon enough.

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