Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria pummelled the Atlantic coast, and changed parts of Texas, Florida and the Caribbean forever. It seems like some areas of the country have barely recovered… but hurricane season is set to begin all over again in June.
It all comes down to resilience.
Resilience is toughness; the ability to recover quickly after taking a hit. When it comes to energy, resilience means the capacity of a power source to sustain a disaster, on a large or small scale. Resilience means that you are protected from the unexpected blackouts that result from the increasingly unruly weather. It means you don’t have to worry about losing heat when it’s freezing, or air conditioning when the heat is unbearable. Resilient power is essential and life-sustaining, and key for preparing people for the next hurricane season.
The focus, now, is on energy security. The power grid, as it stands, is pretty vulnerable. Weather related events cause about 70% of all power outages, including the weight of ice storms, heavy winds, and lightning strikes. Severe weather can hit anytime, anywhere, and climate experts have predicted that the unpredictable nature of nature will continue, with precipitation levels fluctuating greatly over the next decade and beyond. This isn’t great news for the grid.
Natural disasters pose a direct threat to electrical lines, but the power demanded by homes and businesses during severe weather put heavy strain on the grid itself. The high demand of electricity to power air conditioning during heat waves, for example, has overloaded the grid and caused widespread shortages, especially in the last few decades as homes depend more and more on high levels of electricity. This is where the Catch-22 comes into light: the more we rely on electricity, the greater strain we put on the grid, the higher likelihood of grid failure.
Growing demand, coupled with the onslaught of a hurricane, could render the electrical grid useless at any point. Thinking about the potentially devastating effects of a long-term power outage makes it crystal clear why resilience should be a top priority.
How can you prepare for Hurricane Season?
Here are the Top 10 Essentials that every household should have in order to survive a major power outage:
A 5-Gallon Bucket. In fact, don’t have just one--have one for every member of your household. These buckets are hand for a lot of things, but most of all, they’re a stack-able, water-proof way to store supplies for everyone in your household in the case of a power outage. The reason you need supplies gathered ahead of time is obvious--if you wait until the outage hits, everyone will need them, and they may no longer be available.
Food. Every prepper knows that you should be prepared with nutrient-dense, non-perishable food at all times. Convenience is important, but prepping with food that you will actually eat is important, too. After all, you don’t want to set yourself up to be miserable. A few great options include: granola bars, trail mix, jerky, packet foods (like oatmeal or noodles) and ready-to-eat canned foods. As far as cans go, pull-tab lids are definitely preferable, but if you can’t find them, make sure you have a can-opener on hand!
Water. This is as life-essential as it gets. Not only do you need water to survive, but you need to stay hydrated so you can think clearly and work effectively to solve problems in high-stress situations like power outages. Gatorade, and other electrolyte-stabilizers are also smart to have on hand.
Flashlight and Batteries. Candles can be great, but nothing can replace the safety, convenience, and effectiveness of a good flashlight (with back-up batteries, of course.)
Large Garbage Bags. Having many extra garbage bags on hand can be helpful not only to store things in a water-proof environment in case of flooding, but also to seal up windows in case of extreme cold weather, or broken glass.
Duct Tape. You will want duct tape. You don’t yet know why, or how you will use it, but you will use it. You might start by using it to seal up your windows with those garbage bags.
Personal Care Items. We’re not just talking about hygiene items here, though you’ll be glad to have a healthy stock of those on hand (especially feminine hygiene items). Also make sure you have adequate socks, underwear, and warm clothes--warmer than you would normally need on a regular basis. Reflective insulating blankets come in handy during cold weather as well.
Cash. Having cash on hand could make a huge difference in the case of a prolonged outage, even if it’s not a huge amount. Cash could be the most valuable or only medium of exchange with those you come in contact with in an outage. Keep it in a waterproof bag along with a laminated set of emergency numbers (and don’t forget some change.)
First Aid. A First Aid kit may sound like a no-brainer, but a surprising number of households do not keep adequate medical supplies on hand. Get started with these: Band-Aids Sterile gloves Alcohol swabs Medical tape A bandage Tweezers Gauze pads Antibiotic ointment Pain medication A Thermometer First aid items for your pets, if you have them
The first nine necessities on this checklist will set you up pretty well in the case of a power outage… but the tenth could prevent you from having to endure an outage in the first place.
Thanks to modern technology, you never have to be powerless. Due to growing supply, solar-plus-storage systems have dropped so much in price, basically every household can afford one.
Here’s why solar-plus-storage is a no-brainer:
Solar + storage acts as an energy security system, seamlessly protects your household from grid failure. Solar + storage automatically keeps your electronics online and operational. Solar + storage only costs about $30 a month, with a 6-year pay-off period.
Solar power and energy storage are quickly becoming mainstream, due to the lowered cost and clear-cut value. What used to be a luxury reserved for the upper-class is now a completely accessible household device.
Here’s how it works: Home batteries can either store power from the grid, or through the free solar energy generated by solar panels. This power is then stored in a home battery, which is charged and ready whenever you need it. Solar needs energy storage so you can still have power, even after the sun goes down. Energy storage needs solar so it can be recharged, even when the grid is down.
The key to crafting independent resilience stems from anticipating vulnerabilities, and making sure each home or community is prepared. Most of the time, being prepared means simply investing in an off-grid power source, and a way to store the energy you generate.
Finding a power source independent from your power company:
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. Awesome, right? And completely off-grid.
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 to high demand or cyber attack. It is, however, intermittent. Meaning, the sun does go down. This is where energy storage comes in.
Storing energy in a home battery:
In order to truly break ties from the power grid, you need a way to store the electricity your solar panels generate during the day, so you can use it at night. 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 an off-grid home, overcoming the intermittency of natural solar flows. With a home battery, your house can have off-grid 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. Although other preparations are still smart, and can be very helpful in the case of a natural disaster, keeping your home powered should be your top priority.
It’s time to re-think our current power systems, and re-build a more distributed, resilient energy future before the next disaster strikes.