A report published by the Clean Energy Group called Resilience for Free has made some key points we might not consider that often when it comes to solar power and energy storage in the form of batteries.
Solar and battery systems generally have been purchased by people or companies that are able to make these investments, but the benefits can also be experienced by those of lesser means, such as residents of affordable housing developments, “Solar-plus-storage systems can power a building’s essential electricity loads during outages as well as enable low-income housing developers to generate significant electric-bill savings by reducing utility demand charges and generating revenue by providing valuable grid services.”
The most vulnerable can benefit too. People whose lives depend on electricity are more impacted during blackouts or other electricity disruptions. For example, people who can’t move without electric carts, such as individuals who can’t use their legs or some of the elderly. Imagine being stuck at home with no electricity and a dead battery in your electric cart. You couldn’t go anywhere and there would be no way to re-charge it.
If your health and life depend on taking refrigerated medications on a regular basis, they may spoil during a blackout and become unusable.
The report points out that there is a solution today, “Solar photovoltaics (PV) and battery storage systems (“solar+storage”) can help them now. These technologies can provide reliable power for a range of critical facilities and essential building service loads. They can power water booster pumps, lighting, telecommunications, fire alarms and security cameras, elevators, and climate controls. They can mean the difference between safety and harm, protection and tragedy, dangerous evacuation or sheltering in place when outages occur.”
This is to say that PV solar power coupled with battery systems can be more effective than having to use diesel generators, because no liquid fuel is required. Diesel generators also can be loud and produce air pollution. Even more troubling, diesel exhaust has been linked to lung cancer by some research. During an emergency situation like SuperStorm Sandy, of course it would better to generate some electricity using diesel generators if that was the only means available, than to have no electricity. The use would be short-term, so the diesel soot exposure would not be extensive.
At the same time, PV and battery systems are clean, renewable sources of electricity, so they don’t create any harmful air pollution.
Solar PV and battery storage systems might be generally thought of as mostly better for the environment, but they can have other benefits.