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It’s 119 Degrees Outside. Ready for a Blackout?

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It’s HOT in the southwest.

The temperature in Phoenix, Arizona hit 119 degrees (F) on the 29th of June, a new record for the date.  The heat was so intense, it led to the cancellation of 18 regional flights at the airport (the aircraft used for those routes were restricted to temperatures no higher than 118 degrees).

The extreme heat is also playing havoc with the electrical grid in the US southwest, much earlier than the late August squeeze that is routine.  With everyone in the region running their air conditioners at full clip to avoid cooking (more tex-mex sous-vide in airtight homes than outdoor barbecue), there’s barely enough power available to meet demand. And at peak loads, the electrical grid is much more likely to fail.

These are killer temperatures. And if the grid fails right now, it’s not just an inconvenience.

It quickly becomes a matter of life or death.

If you and your community are relatively unprepared, the only way to meet the challenge of a blackout during extreme heat is to band together as a community.  Community action during times like this can dramatically reduce the death toll.

However, community action after a crisis hits isn’t the best approach.

The real resilient solution is to produce more locally.

In this case, the ability to produce energy locally and to use it effectively is the key to long term resilience.  It can transform a killer blackout into a relatively minor event.

But, resilience like this requires investments at the household and community level, by people like you and me.

For example, if most of the homes in a community produced solar energy, electricity would be not only be available when needed, the production would be peaking at the very same moment the need for it was the most intense.  Further, homes with battery backups and natural gas generators would be able to continue to provide energy around the clock and, if the community was connected by a microgrid, a blackout could be completely avoided.

The only way this type of resilience gets built is if you and I build it, before disaster strikes.

So, let’s get going, before we are all cooked together.

Sincerely Yours,

 

JOHN ROBB

JR

PS:  Don’t know how to start with resilient power investments?  Sign up for resilient strategies and I’ll show you how.  It’s easier and more affordable than you think (it’s also a great investment).  

PPS:  Not only is the grid more likely to suffer black and brown outs when operating at peak capacity, the costs are extremely high.  So, even if the region is able to make it through the summer without a major glitch (unlikely, but possible), these costs will cause big across the board rate hikes in the future.

 

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  • Ray

    128 in Death Valley. Friend in Texas reported 101 at 9pm. Last year he lost a dairy cow to the heat, despite hosing her down and keeping her in the shade. My guess is that in 20 years, Phoenix will be almost a ghost town. I’ve seen estimate of 170 in the Southwest by the end of the century.
    Moving north and going off-grid.
    Keep up the good work.

  • 350.org co-sponsored a climate cabaret at the statehouse in Montpelier (VT). The best performance was by a small (50 student) high school from Cabot. They gave a radio show performance depicting one hundred years from now when everyone was living underground due to the intense heat and unbreathable air. In their story the kids get hold of a time machine and visit current day (yesterday?) terrestrial conditions. The contrast was striking. It was refreshing to hear young people considering the big environmental picture beyond the economy and not just whining about not being able to get decent paying jobs to consume more stuff.

    Stan Cox, author of Losing Our Cool and Any Way You Slice It writes about the airconditioning taking out the grid and being the predecessor to national carbon rationing. Seems true to me. My question is how do we establish a microgrid? I live in northern Vermont. Our biggest natural resource is biomass that can be pyrolized (not burned) and produce clean syngas to cogenerate electricity and stable agricultural carbon (biochar) to return to the soil. Most people, including legislators, don’t understand the carbon sequestration biochar offers not to mention the agricultural benefits. How many people actually grow anything? And how do you farm underground? The town I live in owns the electric utility and just met the state mandated 4% (of peak consumption) net metering cap. Feels like a microgrid is the next step to climate resilience. Please explain details.

  • BP

    Always interesting and informative reading. However, the last several times I have investigated solar for my home (panels, inverter, batt backup) the payback was 17 years and this included every national and state tax break and rebate. I think alternative energy is a great idea but who is really going to pay 60k to make the change when all I get is a good feeling that I am doing my part. The pro-alternative energy policies of this administration haven’t trickled down anywhere near the average homeowner….just rhetoric, just like always.
    BTW, I have checked wind, geo thermal, hydro, etc….all have significant limitations.

    • John Robb

      BP, Solar tech is changing. Completely changing the economics. JR

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