At the turn of the new year, a series of atmospheric river storms wreaked havoc on the state of California and its residents. These storms killed 19 people, disrupted the lives of millions, caused severe flooding, and destroyed critical infrastructure. The intense rain and wind experienced by California citizens sheds light on the importance of disaster preparedness and resilient energy.
Atmospheric rivers are currents in the lower atmosphere that can carry large amounts of water vapor thousands of miles from the tropics to mid-and-northern latitudes. While this phenomenon is the reason for some of California’s much needed precipitation and snowfall during times of extreme drought, it can also bring in debilitating amounts of it as citizens endured last month. The combination of severe dry spells, wildfires and torrential rains proves to be a disaster for people’s lives and the state’s infrastructure, as large amounts of water wash away California mountainsides and riverbeds with ease due to very dry soil conditions.
Californians are already familiar with issues regarding their electrical grid. Wildfires, which are occurring in greater frequency and intensity due to climate change, often damage power lines causing long power outages. Additionally, utility companies perform Public Safety Power Shutoffs, de-energizing power lines for multiple hours at a time in order to prevent starting a fire with electrical equipment, a frequent occurrence with how many fires they’ve caused. Now, California residents are experiencing even more grid instability as fast winds and floodwaters are destroying distribution lines and surrounding infrastructure.
Throughout the duration of the continuing series of storms, various counties from Los Angeles to Santa Clara have been experiencing extended outages. Multiple regions, like ones surrounding Sacramento, each have had hundreds of thousands of people lose power for days at a time. For some, getting power back is a weeklong ordeal, and for others the timeline isn’t clear. Power instability is more than a matter of inconvenience for many Americans, as frequent loss of power can prove to be a matter of life and death for those dependent on electrical equipment for their health.
The disastrous effects of these river storms give the state and energy providers another reason to modernize the aging electrical grid. Innovations like BoxPower’s standalone power systems can provide utilities with a clean and resilient alternative to the traditional model of hazardous distribution lines. BoxPower’s containerized systems have provided reliable power in some of the most intense weather conditions, like the historic December winter storm (2021), August heatwave (2021), and the notorious Oak Fire (2021).
Notably during extended outages across California, BoxPower’s Remote Grids continued to provide 100% reliable energy amidst these storms, with PG&E and Liberty customers receiving power from BoxPower systems. Even projects located in the centers of affected areas, like Briceburg and Sagehen, continue to supply power while the grid struggles.
In response to the uncovered deficiencies of the grid, California utilities are turning towards the traditional approach of undergrounding in order to mitigate the ever-increasing risks associated with natural disasters. However, this approach is financially intensive, as undergrounding existing powerlines can cost up to $3-$5 million, respectively. Additionally, underground power lines are more difficult to access and repair in the event of a power outage, which can prolong the duration of the outage. Lastly, they rely on intact infrastructure in other parts of the grid. Microgrids, on the other hand, rely on distributed energy resources, which can be located closer to the point of consumption. This reduces the need for long-distance transmission and distribution lines, which are more prone to damage from natural disasters such as storms and floods. This can save utility customers money by reducing the need for costly repairs and undergrounding, and by minimizing the need for emergency generators and other back-up power systems. Microgrids like those designed, installed, and managed by BoxPower provide cost savings and more reliable power to utility ratepayers.
BoxPower’s mission remains clear: providing safe, reliable and affordable power to rural consumers. As extreme weather events continue to proliferate, it is vital to have a more safe, reliable, and affordable grid with solutions like microgrids.
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