Energy News: Solar Panels Wouldn't Have Help You in Sandy, Oil Spills in the Superstorm's Wake

US Fish and Wildlife Service - Northeast Division/CC BY 2.0

Grid-Tied Solar Panels May Be Little Help in Disaster
It's tempting to go down the "if I only had solar panels I wouldn't have lost power" route, but if your system is tied to the grid, and doesn't have battery back up, you'll have no power like everyone else. Business Week explains:


One reason the grid-connected solar systems shut down automatically in outages is that when the power goes off, if home solar installations send electricity onto the lines, it could electrocute workers repairing them. In the U.S., it’s also rare for residential solar customers to have batteries in their home to store the power coming off their roofs in case of a broader outage. In countries such as Germany, Kennedy says, more homes have batteries or electric vehicles connected to their panels.

The good news: A number of solar power providers contacted said they hadn't received calls reporting damaged panels.

NYU's Cogeneration Facilities Kept Lights Working on Campus
Back in 2011 NYU installed natural gas cogeneration facilities at its campus in Greenwich Village—right in the middle of the main area of Manhattan without power, for those not up on their New York City geography. New York Times reports that the system, which can generate power for some of NYU's bigger buildings, was preemptively cut off from the grid last week, put into "island mode," and functioned as planned throughout the storm. A much different story than NYU Medical Center further uptown, whose generator failed in the middle of the storm and had to be evacuated.

Neglected Infrastructure Increased Power Outages
Climate change fueling extreme weather certainly played a role in creating the background conditions for Superstorm Sandy, but a piece in Huffington Post highlights how underinvestment in infrastructure contributed to power outages.

"You cannot make infrastructure hurricane-proof. We had a nine-foot storm surge on top of high tide. You cannot protect your infrastructure against that sort of damage," said Chris Eck, spokesman for Jersey Central Power & Light, which had 940,000 customers without power Wednesday. But several utility and climate experts maintained that utilities, faulted in many places for their response to Hurricane Irene a year ago, should look further back in geological history, and further ahead toward the destabilizing effects of global warming, as they prepare for natural disaster.

In New York City, researchers warned in 2008 that the shoreline was highly vulnerable to a massive surge. Brian Colle, a professor of atmospheric science at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, said higher surges could have been foreseen by looking at geological history.

"If you're planning for New York City to be around for more than 100 years -- which I would hope so -- then I think it's prudent to have a flood mitigation plan or strategy that goes beyond 100 years," Colle said.

Oil Spills Go Underreported in Sandy's Aftermath
ENews Park Forest quotes Capt John Lipscomb of Riverkeeper:

The toxic legacy from this storm will continue. This is like an Exxon Valdez from nonpoint sources. The amount of pollution released by this storm is staggering. Instead of it being one product like crude oil, it's a thousand different products and floatables, and instead of being from one source like a tanker, it's from a thousand different locations.

And Greenpeace has video of what Capt Lipscomb is talking about:

Tags: Global Climate Change | Natural Disasters | Oil Spill | Solar Power | Weather

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