By: Pivot Energy
April 30 2021
Climate change is driving extreme and aggressive weather patterns across the country and the world. 2020 witnessed a record of 22 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in the United States alone. These increasingly common natural disasters threaten the safety and stability of individuals, communities, and businesses alike. They also pose a unique problem for self-storage facilities that depend on reliable and resilient energy to maintain climate-controlled spaces that protect the personal belongings entrusted to them by members of their local community.
As extreme climate events increase and further exacerbate an already aging thermal-based energy infrastructure, new solutions are required to improve the resilience of communities and the businesses that service them. Distributed solar is proving to be a game-changer in this regard. If you are a self-storage facility owner who wants to know how your business can improve the resilience of your facility through solar, this article is for you.
In order to understand how solar can help communities and businesses improve their resilience in the face of increasingly common natural disasters, it helps to examine the weaknesses in the existing system.
The grid has traditionally been powered by power plants (typically coal, natural gas, or oil) generated at locations far away from the point of consumption. Long transmission lines transport the electricity generated at the central location to a local substation where it is eventually distributed to the users. Major disturbances (like natural disasters) in the current centralized transmission system can cause a large portion of the grid to lose power, resulting in large-scale outages that severely impact local communities. Recent outages in Texas, due to winter weather, and California, due to wildfires, are examples of such system-wide impact.
In such emergencies, fuel generators typically power critical infrastructure (i.e. hospitals and fire stations). When the fuel necessary to run those generators is not readily available in the impacted community, it must be transported there. This significantly increases the emergency response time and further jeopardizes an already reeling community. The stakes continue to rise the longer the outage lasts.
The cruel irony here is that the increased greenhouse gas emissions caused by traditional electricity production methods contribute to rising global temperatures, which in turn escalates the frequency and intensity of natural disasters. Distributed solar serves to address this issue as well.
Distributed solar combined with storage has demonstrated its potential to increase grid and community resilience in the face of natural disasters. Unlike traditional thermal-based energy produced at a central location far away from the end-user, distributed solar produces electricity at or near the point of consumption. This proximity is essential in the event of major disturbances to the grid. It allows for critical infrastructure to remain powered without the wait time associated with getting a sprawling grid back up and running.
Facilities that have solar energy systems, but do not have a battery storage component, may still experience a temporary blackout. For systems to continue providing localized power even when the rest of the grid is down requires that they be designed to disconnect (or “island”) themselves from the grid in the case of a disturbance. Not all systems have this capability. Even those designed this way might sometimes need to temporarily shut down for safety reasons, such as when utility workers are active nearby. Regardless, distributed solar helps turn the grid back on faster as smart inverter technology has a faster frequency response than traditional thermal plants.
Now that we’ve explored how solar can improve energy security and increase community resilience, let’s consider where your self-storage facility fits into the picture.
Members of your community trust your business to keep their stored belongings safe regardless of what might be occurring outside. Of course, their antique furniture or old tax documents will certainly not be top-of-mind amid a climate emergency. But once the immediate danger has passed and efforts to build back begin, those stored items will become profound representations of a cherished sense of normalcy.
By adding solar panels to your self-storage facility, you can:
Working with a qualified solar developer like Pivot Energy will help you understand how solar combined with storage can better prepare your self-storage facility for extreme weather events. Investing in this increased level of preparedness will improve your business’s ability to serve your customers and your community.