Hurricane Matthew Leaves Millions Without Electricity, Looking for Back-Up Power

by Anna Gretz
October 17, 2016
Home Battery

Hurricane Matthew tore through the East Coast this week, leaving darkness in its wake.

Millions of Americans in the Southeastern states of Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina are still enduring power outages, and utility companies report that the power may not come back on for weeks in some areas. Hurricane Matthew caused overwhelming flooding and property damage, but right now, one of the main concerns of those in affected areas is power outages. North Carolina Governor, Pat McCrory, says that “Hurricane Matthew is off the map, but it is still with us and it is deadly.” The darkness left by Hurricane Matthew isn’t just an inconvenience for homeowners. It has robbed them of their source of communication, as well as ways to preserve and prepare food. For many, though there is flooding all around them, their water source has been compromised.

“What else can you do?” asked Catherine Pettiford, a resident of North Carolina. “Just wait it out.”

But there is something else you can do. There’s something else that homeowners around the country can do to protect themselves and their families from future power outages. Energy security is a two-step process. Spoiler alert: it all comes down to energy storage.

First, you need a power source independent from your power company.

You can tap into other renewable energy sources (like wind or water, for example) but solar panels are attractive because of their long life and minimal maintenance required. Once installed, solar panels usually last over 25 years, generating electricity directly from sunlight.

Most households install photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of their house, where nothing can block them from the sun. When the sun hits the panel, cells made up of silicon semiconductors collect the energy, creating an electrical direct current. This direct current, when passed through an inverter, is converted into an alternating current, which is what your home uses. Generating electricity from solar panels provides you with a reliable, resilient energy source that isn’t vulnerable in the same way the power grid is. It is, however, intermittent, and in the case of cloudy, or even turbulent, weather like a hurricane, there’s less solar power available. This is where energy storage comes in.

Next, you need to store that energy so it will be available when the grid goes down.

In order to truly have energy security, you need a way to store the electricity your solar panels generate, so you can use it if, and when, the grid goes down. Home batteries do just that. A home battery is like a power reservoir. Water reservoirs continuously provide water to overcome the intermittency of natural water flows. Home batteries ensure continuous power to your home, overcoming the intermittency of natural solar flows. With a home battery, your house can have back-up energy, even when the sun isn’t shining.

Most home batteries on the market today are wall-mounted, indoor or outdoor systems with quiet, unobtrusive operation. Unlike gas-powered generators, they don’t need to be moved into place for operation, or refueled. With solar home batteries, there are no noxious fumes or obnoxious noise. You won’t even notice it’s there… until disaster strikes, and you’re free from the stress of grid failure.

The combination of solar panels and home batteries provide households with the essential resources of resilient power. As builders start projects with the future of energy in mind, resilient power can be built right into any new home with just these two easy steps. Home batteries provide a simple solution for those who wish to protect their home in the case of a disaster that disables the power grid.

Energy Security for Everyone

When power outages hit, they hit residents of affordable housing communities especially hard. Storing reliable energy sources in energy storage systems like home batteries could protect our country’s most vulnerable populations from devastating power failures. The best part? Back-up power is essentially free. The up-front cost of solar installation, coupled with energy storage systems like a home batteries can be high, but this technology provides building cost savings that rival photovoltaic systems alone, or other energy-efficiency efforts. The revenue generated by electricity bill savings, in addition to selling solar energy back to the grid, can pay off the initial cost of installation well within the lifetime of the equipment. If you think about it in these terms, the benefit of having back-up power through energy storage is basically free.

As soon as solar panel systems and energy storage systems like home batteries are installed in any housing unit, low-income or otherwise, both the savings and the power resiliency benefits are instant. While it may take some time for the money saved by reduced bills to add up to the same amount as the cost of installing this technology, housing units get to enjoy the security of blackout protection from day one. This means, there’s no reason for low-income and vulnerable populations to continue running the risk of long-term power failures that could result from the next big hurricane.

We need to use our resources to prepare for, instead of react to, the next disaster.

Coping with the aftermath of long-term power outages drains resources from everyone. Ensuring blackout protection for vulnerable communities benefits more than simply those communities themselves. Keeping low-income housing communities safe and operational protects city and state funds, and increases community value. In addition to this, further investing in the solar energy and energy storage industries will drive down costs for everyone.

Home battery energy storage can build safer communities, protect at-risk populations, and provide an economic return at the same time. Expanding the solar energy storage customer market will benefit all sides of the industry, encouraging the advancement of an industry that will be essential to powering our society into the future. Every community should be prepared for an energy crisis if, and when, disaster strikes again.

Don’t wait to secure back-up power until you need it… and it’s too late.

Every household should know what it feels like to have back-up power--stored energy that you can tap into whenever you need it. Instead of wondering when the next power outage will hit, you can know that you’ll still have the electricity you need to keep your outlets up, your light on, your devices charged, and your refrigerator running.

What does energy security look like? Well, according to us, it’s small, quiet, and affordable for everyone. We call it EnergyShield.

Here’s what EnergyShield does:

While a huge portion of the country is struggling without power, it’s a good time to talk about the energy security options that are available for everyone.

If you’re ready to talk about how you can create a secure energy source for your home, talk to a Swell representative about EnergyShield today.