IREC Regulatory Program Manager, Mari Hernandez, contributed to this story.
As more communities seek to mitigate and manage the risks of natural disasters, extreme weather events, and other events impacting the power grid and critical infrastructure, the notion of improving local resiliency continues to gain attention. In addition to developing more robust disaster response plans, more communities are seeking to leverage solar photovoltaic (PV) systems paired with energy storage technologies (solar+storage) as a means to provide emergency back-up power systems, particularly to keep critical loads—e.g., hospitals, emergency response buildings and community shelters —online and operational during outages.
Earlier in July at Intersolar North America 2017, IREC and several Solar Market Pathways awardees highlighted pioneering resiliency efforts underway, as well as key lessons and tools emerging to facilitate more widespread adoption of solar+storage as part of local emergency planning and emergency preparedness efforts.
Organized and moderated by IREC, The Next Frontier: Pioneering Local Resiliency with Solar+Storage panel featured three groups working to advance local resiliency efforts in communities across the country, with support from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Seth Mullendore of the Clean Energy Group shared insights from their Resilient Power Project, which is focused on accelerating market development of resilient, clean energy solutions for affordable housing and critical community facilities in low-income and disadvantaged communities. Among the 50+ projects the Resilient Power Project has worked with, several key case studies emerged that demonstrate how solar+storage can support resiliency objectives. For example, the Hartley Nature Center in Duluth, Minnesota, was retrofitted with energy storage after a flood in 2012 led to extended power outages. The center is now capable of serving as a community shelter and emergency response center in the event of future emergencies.
Kate Bowman with Utah Clean Energy, on behalf of the Wasatch Solar Team, highlighted their partnership with Salt Lake City to develop a 10-Year Solar Deployment Plan for Utah, which includes a goal to incorporate solar+storage systems into emergency preparedness for city planning and critical infrastructure, such as hospitals and fire stations. While the city is still at the preliminary stages, there is keen interest among many diverse stakeholders to more proactively incorporate solar+storage into emergency planning.
Along similar lines, Jessica Tse of the City of San Francisco highlighted their work to integrate solar and energy storage into the city’s Emergency Response Plans, which will ultimately culminate in a roadmap designed to advance the market for solar plus storage in San Francisco and beyond. As part of their effort, the City of San Francisco developed a first-of-its-kind Critical Load Estimator Tool, which estimates the required rating and physical size of solar PV and battery energy storage to provide power for extended periods during a grid power outage. This free tool allows building owners and city departments to develop equipment sizing before embarking on more detailed studies, and helps inform the development of a more holistic energy security strategy for a city or county.
While interest in solar+storage is growing, existing economic, regulatory, and educational barriers continue to limit its more widespread adoption (particularly when deployed in the context of emergency planning and critical infrastructure). Defining critical load needs, parameters for emergency infrastructure, and placing more specific values on resiliency can help create more clear market signals for solar+storage.
In addition, incorporating solar+storage in long-term infrastructure planning can ensure more facilities are built “solar+storage ready” and, thus, capable of integrating these technologies more seamlessly and cost-effectively down the road. Lastly, the pathways and lessons emerging from leading efforts will help more communities, states and other entities as they navigate the next frontier of local resiliency.