With millions in the dark, a California solar company touts benefits of solar plus storage

With millions in the dark, a California solar company touts cost benefits of solar plus storage
With millions in the dark, a California solar company touts cost benefits of solar plus storage

Today California utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) began the first phase of its Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) during which the power will be cut to up to 800,000 customers, according to the utility.

The utility notified customers yesterday in a post on its Currents website of the impending shutoffs, which will occur in three phases.

As @shaylekann reminded people on twitter, many more than 800,00 people will actually be affected.

Further, the utility expects that the outage will last for an extended period of time.

“We understand the effects this event will have on our customers and appreciate the public’s patience as we do what is necessary to keep our communities safe and reduce the risk of wildfire,” said Michael Lewis, PG&E’s senior vice president of Electric Operations.

Diesel generators or solar plus storage?

A widespread, long-lasting outage like this will surely drive residents to purchase back-up generation from either fossil-fuel based diesel generators or renewable solar power plus a battery.

While diesel generators are generally considered to have a cost advantage over solar plus storage, the fact they run on fuel, which will need to be replenished over the course of the outage, could lead to long lines at fueling stations.

Andrew Newbold, a spokesperson for Sunrun, which provides solar plus storage solutions in California and other states said the cost equation is misunderstood. His company allows customers to own, finance or lease batteries “meaning you could get all the backup and energy management benefits of a home battery at little-to-no money down,” he said, adding, “so from a cost perspective, home batteries beat out traditional home generators.”

In addition to fuel availability concerns, Newbold said that “generators are doing nothing 99% of the time. Batteries in CA are helping people manage TOU rates almost every day, for example.”

In a press release issued by Sunrun earlier this year, Michael Wara, Director of the Climate and Energy Policy Program, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment said, “we need to consider battery storage and solar as part of a toolbox to provide customer resilience in the face of the growing threat from wildfire.”

He added: “The catastrophic events of the past two years are forcing us to rethink how the electricity grid is built and operated. Clean, customer-sited energy storage and generation may be a key enabler of change and hence greater safety for California communities in at risk areas.”

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