Can renewables prevent future blackouts from storms?

Solar, wind and other renewable energy sources could help homeowners avoid future blackouts from superstorms like Sandy. But the key to preventing blackouts is how the grid is connected.

In the wake of the millions of homes and businesses left powerless by hurricane Sandy, many homeowners must be asking: Is there a better way to get my electricity?

One possibility, of course, is using renewable energy.

When it comes to outages, the crucial question is not necessarily what kind of power you use, but what it is connected to. You can have a rooftop full of solar panels but if it’s integrated into a city-wide grid system, with no on-site storage capabilities, you are still reliant on a network vulnerable to falling branches and blown transformers.

When a grid is disrupted, most residents or commercial businesses with solar panels will still lose power like those without because the panels still rely on the grid to generate grid-synchronized energy. If the solar panel owners have an on-site battery system, with a switch that allows a disconnection from the utility, they can run off whatever energy they have stored.


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