How Solar Power Can Balance the Effects of Mother Nature in Natural Disasters

04 Jun 2018

If you’re banking on Reno not suffering from a natural disaster in the near future, you’ll have better statistical odds against the slot machines a few miles down U.S. 95 in Las Vegas.

And, if you’re a Reno resident without rooftop solar, you are, quite literally, banking on a natural disaster not happening. Among natural disaster concerns in this region are wildfires, floods, blizzards, high winds, and earthquakes.

This is one reason solar has expanded in the Reno market, and other natural disaster-prone locations throughout America. Reno is just a microcosm of a greater emergency preparedness crisis plaguing America, which residential solar can cure.

Solar’s “what could have been” moment

Unfortunately, there are numerous examples of recent disasters that illustrate the potential of solar. All of them point to solar as a clear strategy for nationwide disaster mitigation.

After Hurricane Irma stampeded through Florida, residents demanded so much gasoline that the suppliers couldn’t meet expectations. Nearly 65% of some Florida areas were completely out of gas.

The situation went downhill the moment Florida Governor Rick Scott ordered immediate evacuations - the lack of fuel left many Floridians stranded.

Rooftop solar-fueled EVs would have meant more evacuations, and more lives saved.

When you combine a solar carport with rooftop solar, your home becomes a fuel station, and at least two good things happen:

1. You avoid the risks involved in having to drive somewhere to fill up.

2. You save crucial time needed to properly assess and adjust to the emergency situation.

Traditional electricity producers can’t deal with disaster 

Coal plants still supply the vast majority of American energy, yet they operate much differently than solar panels amid natural disasters.

The second there’s a natural disaster warning, coal plants normally shut down. Should the facility suffer damage, it will stay down, even as the rebuilding and cleanup process commences.

Why the delay? It’s the grid. Most coal plants rely on grid transposal to send power to affected areas. When these grid conduits are ruined by the disaster,  the resulting lack of power creates more damage, confusion, and chaos.

Disaster preparation diversity of solar panels

Although inclement weather is not conducive to optimal electricity generation from solar panels, the panels will still produce some energy.

Additionally, when Hurricane Harvey struck Houston and went down as the costliest cyclone in recorded human history (costing approximately $200 billion in damages and an incalculable emotional toll), several savvy solar energy pundits explained how distributed solar could have mitigated the widespread damage the disaster caused.

Large-scale, grid-tied commercial systems aren’t the only ones that benefit from solar; with solid racking, less to break, and increasingly sturdy engineering, contemporary residential solar arrays are incredibly damage-resistant.

What’s more, these systems have no drips, fuel repositories, or combustion mechanisms. Their durability can stand up to many disasters that nature doles out. 

Much hyped “long overdue” natural disasters aren’t just talk. The issue isn’t whether they’ll occur, but how ill equipped most of us are to handle it when they do.

The numerous disasters that have occurred in the past several years can teach us about the importance solar energy will play in mitigating disasters in the future, and, in the process, saving lives.

Sustainability is not just about being green and cost-efficient. It’s also about ensuring safety, preserving our standard of living, and arming us to combat forces beyond our control.

Adopted en masse, ground-mounted and rooftop residential solar can mitigate future disasters – without costly implementation. These systems save families, corporations, and individuals money, even when the disaster has passed.

With a world increasingly tied to electricity, power continuity is non-negotiable..

Given that solar is more affordable than ever, and natural disasters are increasingly a fact of life, the opportunity to go solar has never made more sense.


Scott Cramer is President of Go Solar Group, a solar company.

Go Solar |

Volume: 2018 May/June