What Sandy Taught Us About Solar Storage

The electricity is coming back on in the wake of Superstorm Sandy and the people of New York and New Jersey are talking about how to rebuild, and how to make energy infrastructure changes to address a new stormy reality.

Solar power must be in the mix. The region affected by Sandy has vast untapped potential to produce clean power and cut the carbon emissions that might be exacerbating these storms in the first place.

To be clear: during a major power outage, the most common types of rooftop solar power systems would not have you charging your cell phone or running a dialysis machine. Usually they’re tied into the grid and are automatically disconnected when the grid is down. In order to be completely independent, you need a system configured to provide energy directly to your property, or you’d need a battery storage system. Because batteries are more expensive than generators, not a lot of folks buy them.

However, municipalities, neighborhood co-ops and commercial projects can change that. Communal storage solutions can be found. As Sandy demonstrated, even one building with power can be a support center for a whole neighborhood.

Furthermore, every move to make solar cheaper to install makes power cheaper and savings go up. Right now in New Jersey, policy is helping solar achieve what’s called grid parity with conventional power (nuke, coal, gas): New Jersey’s robust Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SREC) program, in which pollution-creating utilities pay the owner of a solar energy system for each megawatt of clean energy produced, brings down the cost and makes solar more feasible. As true grid parity is achieved, the use of solar is expected to skyrocket.

Bottom line? New Jersey residents would have more money to buy those battery storage systems. And that’s just a start: many other counties in the state have even greater solar potential.

Solar energy has to be part of the plan when we talk about rebuilding in the wake of Sandy. We can make our neighborhoods more livable, no matter what the weather.

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