Resiliency in the face of hurricanes makes the case for renewables even stronger

Solar is fine.
Solar is fine.
Image: Reuters/Jonathan Drake
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People of the Carolinas are picking up the pieces after Hurricane Florence, the wettest tropical cyclone on record. Among the news of dozens of deaths, overflowing pig-manure lagoons, and flooded coal-ash fields, there are some bright spots. Solar-power installations were largely able to escape without harm.

Before the storm hit, Duke Energy’s 40 solar-power sites were “de-energized” and set up horizontally to minimize wind damage. Although it’s too soon say what, if any, damage occurred, the signs are good. Soon after the storm passed, all the installations had begun producing power.

Rooftop solar installations fared well too. Only six out of 800 customers of Yes Solar Solutions reported that there was a problem with their system.

That said, modern renewables form only a fraction of the total electricity produced in the Carolinas. Duke Energy’s Brunswick nuclear plant was shut ahead of the storm and remains offline. The plant is safe but remains inaccessible because of flooding. Natural gas and coal power plants haven’t suffered any problems, but the flooding coal-ash fields are likely to cause environmental problems.

This is not the first time modern renewables have proven their resiliency in the face of storms. “Looking at Harvey in Houston and the storm in Hawaii… we didn’t see any substantial amount of system loss,” Gary Liardon of PetersenDean Roofing & Solar told Greentech Media. “Obviously, if the roof comes off and the house is compromised… there’s no attachment that’s going to survive.”

Texas’s wind farms either operated through Hurricane Harvey or were back up and running soon after (paywall). Similarly, after Hurricane Maria, people have turned to solar with batteries to prepare for the next storm (which we discussed in a recent episode of the Quartz News show). In many places, rooftop-solar installations are built to handle winds of up to 90 miles per hour (145 km/h).

Though non-hydro renewables didn’t make a large fraction of power in the Carolinas, in Texas they provide as much as 19% of electricity, according to the Energy Information Agency. Resiliency in the face of hurricanes will only make the case stronger for wider renewables deployment.