At the peak of this month’s post-storm power outages, 120,000 Auckland homes and businesses were without power – that’s a quarter of the city’s homes – and 10 days on, around 400 homes were still waiting to be reconnected.
No matter how hard lines company staff work to clear felled trees and reconnect damaged power lines, New Zealand’s weather extremes regularly leave Kiwi homes and businesses without power – sometimes for days on end.
And in our technology-dependent, interconnected world, losing power means more than simply being unable to use appliances and devices, it can also mean a loss of income, heating, water and communication.
Phil Harrison, the Managing Director of Harrisons Solar says that in the immediate aftermath of the storm, the company received a huge increase in people wanting to learn more about how solar technology – and especially battery storage – could help them avoid issues related to power outages.
And he says that a grid-connected system would certainly offer a solution in the event of a lines failure whereby a household or business could use power generated via panels during the day, and even, using battery storage, be able to use stored power during evenings, nights and mornings.
“Just a few years ago, very few people knew about battery storage whereas now there’s quite a bit of knowledge around how storage works hand-in-hand with solar – so that when the country has a long-term weather-related power outage such as the one in Auckland, people know how this technology can help,” Phil says.
“We’ve had a massive influx of enquiries after those outages, especially because, for many people, they went on so long. Most people can cope with a couple of hours’ downtime during the night, but when a home or business loses power for a week or more they want to find an alternative solution.”
The main factors contributing to solar generated power’s effectiveness during a large-scale, long-term power outage are:
Being In control: Removing reliance on lines companies puts a household or business back in control of their power use. While the media was full of stories about frustrated residents waiting for their power to be reconnected, those able to utilise self-generated solar energy would have been able to target key energy uses such as water heating, cooking, freezers and charging communication devices. Those with battery storage would also have been able to choose how they used the generated power so they were able to have lighting at night.
We’re not used to downtime: The day after the Auckland storm cut power, The New Zealand Herald ran a story about a butcher in St Johns managing to hire “the last generator in Auckland”. This goes to show that we’re simply not prepared for many of these types of weather-related power outages, and we often struggle to work through the downtime. When the city can run out of generators in a matter of hours, it shows that investing in fail-safe, futureproof technology like solar is both a greener and more trustworthy option.
Businesses can thrive with solar: Because the majority of businesses operate during daylight hours, having the option of using free, directly generated power gives them a chance to carry on trading through power outages. From the loss of lighting and cash machines to having food spoiling in fridges and non-functioning petrol pumps, Auckland businesses suffered following the recent storm – while a simple investment in solar panels could have eased the pain and helped them provide a service for other members of the community struggling without power.
The importance of batteries: While domestic, grid-connected solar systems are becoming better understood, it’s highly likely that in the near future they will almost always be fitted with some sort of battery storage option. While Harrisons main drive in helping to bring cutting-edge solar technology to New Zealand is to help bring down household and business power bills, the growth in batteries’ capacity and increased innovation means that they can also give Kiwis complete 24/7 energy security. As our homes become increasingly “smart” and more of us look towards electric vehicles, the security of generating and storing our own energy will become even more important.
These events look like they will become increasingly likely: Against a backdrop of 2017 being New Zealand’s most expensive year on record for weather-related insurance claims and NIWA scientists predicting that “extreme rainfall, such as 1 in 100 year events, are expected to show even larger increases”, it pays to be protected against potential calamities. New Zealanders are famously resilient, but we are also highly resourceful and that means adopting the types of technology that can help us battle issues caused by mother nature. No matter how hard lines companies work, extreme weather events are likely to cause prolonged outages – but the effect of those outages can be mitigated if more homes and businesses invest in solar power.
For more information on how battery storage and solar generation can help protect your home or business from the effects of power outages, contact Harrisons Solar to book a consultation with one of our experts or visit the website to find your nearest Harrisons Solar expert.