California Urges a Powerless Lifestyle For Everyone; Solar Homes Included

  • PG&E drafts Public Safety Power Shutdown in response to fires.
  • Micro Inverted Solar will stop producing when power is out.
  • Emerging technologies are beginning to surface.

The Golden State of California has a beautiful yellow hue throughout unfarmed land that is caused by the extreme amount of sunlight without water.  With 300 days of sunshine in many places throughout California, landscapes have turned from beautiful sun beaten land to concerning fire fuels.

Tragic fires that decimated northern and southern California communities in the last few years have commanded utilities to look out with absolute resolve for the safety of their customers, thus prompting radical change.

Solar power is the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity, either directly using photovoltaics (PV), indirectly using concentrated solar power, or a combination. Concentrated solar power systems use lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. Photovoltaic cells convert light into an electric current using the photovoltaic effect.

Meanwhile, California has traditionally been perceived as the utopian solar climate with wonderful sun for solar harvest 300 days, nearly statewide.  This utopian climate has blessed the public with industry by force, promoting the modern-day gold rush; manufacturer global scalability drove solar product prices down and with 25 years of warranty coverage. The IRS 30% tax credit served up with reasonable financing options have made the equation into a solid investment for Californians to go solar.

Thousands of homes, schools, and businesses have moved from being a utility power dependent consumer to a more collaborative net energy meter customer– aligning with statewide power initiatives by the CPUC to empower customers who produce to be given equal value for energy harvested as they would be charged.

The solar industry boomed with product solutions hinging around a safe and historically reliable utility grid equalizing power.  Most of the products marketed, bought and sold that converted solar homes within this boom require the grid to be active in order to produce power.  When the grid goes down for safety purposes so does the solar panel.

Then the fires of 2018 happened and the amount of concern grew beyond anything we have known.  Pacific Gas & Electric drafted the Public Safety Power Shutdown plan that seeks to protect more customers from fire hazard by shutting neighboring power down nearly 1,500% further than it has ever been reduced before.  This new fire safety culture is being adopted to plan for outage for safety sake.

This change for solar homes and their advocates is immense.

Micro inverted solar homes were widespread and popular, forecasting unrivaled reliability and certainty in perfect conditions.  Offering customers the knowledge that each direct current solar panel would have its own conversion to alternating current under each panel back feeding the grid.  The one catch is they don’t work without the grid.

Enter emerging A/C coupled solar technologies!

So, what can be done for homes that want to make those panels work and harvest without being totally grid dependent and safe without back feeding the grid?  There are solutions and slowly growing in number.

A solar micro-inverter, or simply microinverter, is a plug-and-play device used in photovoltaics, that converts direct current (DC) generated by a single solar module to alternating current (AC). Microinverters contrast with conventional string and central solar inverters, in which a single inverter is connected to multiple solar panels. The output from several microinverters can be combined and often fed to the electrical grid.

For years the micro inverted solar powered customer accepted reasonable back up options. Those customers were offered load shaving battery options that still don’t allow battery back up without the grid, just shave cost down during peak hours with short battery dependent cycles.

The same solar manufacturers smitten by their generator competition offered the most common solution for power outages as being generator power that is fed by natural gas or propane. This solution will solve the problem, yet it still does not allow solar production to help lighten the machines load.

It used to be that you either had to choose to have back up ability and avoid micro inverter power, or choose grid dependence and don’t worry about battery back up until the solution presents itself.

Americans have all recognized the value of independence, and now more importantly than ever California micro inverted solar customers can actually achieve power autonomy with grid interdependence, both working with and without the grid with the support of a home’s power needs– all while remaining fire safe. Contact your local installer for more details of these advances in solar technologies.

In no way is adding battery backup power options a fire proof solution for solar customers.  This does not remove the need to evacuate when necessary.  These new concepts only provide power to those waiting out the power safety shutdown who have existing solar producing A/C coupled micro inverted systems.

Yes, these solutions carry cost.  But what doesn’t?  Power costs are going up and not set at absolute prices outside the municipal utilities. They are not cheap but neither is having to replace an entire freezer and fridge full of food or better yet stop living comfortably due to a fire safety outage miles away and un-evacuated stricken consumers.  Is expanding your power producing capabilities worth interdependence, or even independence?

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Anthony Gilbert

A solar advocate as well as a public purpose fund advocate.  Anthony works as a lobbyist for state level initiatives that have dramatic affect on independent localized contractors.  A lover of fine arts, fine foods, spirits, sports, travel and family. 

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