Blog Post

Californians Prepare for Wildfires with Solar+Storage

As wildfire season in California fast approaches, residents face not only the likelihood that their power may be cut off by a wildfire, but also that their utility may preemptively turn off their power for days or weeks at a time as part of ‘Public Safety Power Shutoffs’, designed to mitigate the risk of fires from damaged transmission lines during periods of high winds and drought. Approximately 25% of the state’s population – 11 million people – currently live in areas classified as “high wildfire risk,” according to California Governor Newsom’s Strike Force’s “Wildfires and Climate Change: California’s Energy Future” Report..

Wildfire frequency, destruction and associated power outages in California have reached an all-time high in recent years, causing residents to think critically as to how they can best prepare to maintain reliable, long-lasting power for long periods of time when the next power outage strikes. More than 9,000 wildfires in 2017 and 7,571 wildfires in 2018 ignited across California, resulting in 2017 and 2018 being the most destructive wildfire seasons in California’s history. These wildfires resulted in large sections of the state’s electrical grid being shut down for hours, and oftentimes days or weeks, at a time.

In the past 4 years, equipment owned by California’s three largest investor-owned utilities have been deemed responsible for sparking more than 2,000 fires. These utility-caused wildfires and associated damages and lawsuits have motivated Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) to implement a joint campaign: ‘The Power of Being Prepared’. The central focus of the campaign is to prepare residents for planned, long-duration power outages, or ‘Public Safety Power Shutoffs’, where utilities turn off power to fire prone areas during extreme weather events as a safety precaution. These utilities have repeatedly warned customers that they will shut off power as long and as often as necessary throughout the 2019 wildfire season.

Terry and Jim, a couple from Palos Verdes in the South Bay of Los Angeles, said SCE power outages have become a “notorious problem.” They were tired of having to rely on their loud, noisy diesel generator to power them through the night, particularly for outages that last for days at a time. Constantly refueling their generator also became a pain. They sought a reliable, safe, and long-lasting solution that would seamlessly keep their power on.

Having helped like-minded residents all across Los Angeles County, Andrew Read of Voltage River readily recommended installing a solar energy system with 10 year warrantied, non-toxic, cobalt-free, SimpliPhi PHI batteries. Andrew knew that Terry and Jim needed more than just a solar energy system to keep their power on, as solar energy systems without batteries are automatically shut down by utilities during a power outage as a safety measure.

In fact, many residents who have installed solar energy systems to maintain power during power outages outages don’t realize that their solar generation feeds into the grid, not their home, during an outage. By adding PHI batteries and chargers, the home can operate independently of the grid and use solar plus energy storage to keep the lights on.

When it came to the batteries, Andrew knew reliability and safety were critical. Andrew elaborated, “The PHI batteries are very reliable and sturdy. They are also extremely safe due to the fact they come with 80 Amp breakers and use the most environmentally benign lithium ion chemistry — lithium iron phosphate, which is not prone to thermal runaway or fire.” Also as a result of using the safest lithium ion chemistry, the PHI batteries are able to operate in a much wider temperature range, crucial during wildfire season.

Now that their solar+storage system has been installed, power outages are a thing of the past for Terry and Jim. Terry explained, “The SimpliPhi battery system has been very reliable. We have had many power outages and the only way we know the power is out in our community is because our neighbors come over to use our power during the outage. We are very proud of our system and recommend SimpliPhi for any energy storage application where maintaining power is an important issue.”

Andrew Read of Voltage River installed this impeccable grid-tied solar array on Terry and Jim’s Mission clay tile roof, as well as six DC-coupled PHI 3.4 kWh batteries for a total of 20.4 kWh, two MidNite Solar Classic 200 Charge Controllers and one 8 kW OutBack Radian.

This solar+storage backup power system provides power to most of the home’s operations including refrigeration, freezers, kitchen appliances, inside lighting, alarm and security systems, gates and garage doors, internet and entertainment systems.

Terry and Jim can rest assured now that they have reliable, safe and enduring power thanks to solar plus SimpliPhi energy storage solutions — regardless of upcoming wildfire or utility-planned power outages.