The California blackouts and solar power

One valuable lesson has been learned from the California blackouts concerning the greens' vaunted solar power.

People with solar panels fitted to their homes have long acted under the impression that these granted them some immunity to blackouts.  They now know better.  Those who went to the heavy expense of purchasing and installing solar panels are in the same situation as their neighbors: no light, no heat, no power.

How does this make sense?  If you've got a system that generates power all by itself, with no outside aid or assistance necessary, then it's a sure thing that it'll continue generating power even after the grid itself is shut down, right?

Ah, but we're dealing here with corporate policy.  And when that enters the picture, then sense of any kind quickly departs the stage.

It turns out that solar panels do not supply power to the homes they are attached to.  Instead, they transmit power out into the grid itself.  A complex system of credits is employed to reimburse the homeowner.

And when the grid goes down, due to storms, sabotage, or left-wing politics, well, the solar panels that you can see right atop your roof, they go down, too.

The downside of being connected to the grid is that if there is a blackout your solar system will not work. All grid-tied solar systems are installed with an automatic shutoff switch which turns off your solar system in a power outage. 

Pacific Gas & Electric has not gone out of its way to hide this, but it hasn't gone out of its way to publicize it, either.  The information can be found — as above — on almost all solar power sites, if only on the back pages.  You need to look for it, and if you don't know it's there, why would you look?

The claim here is that it's done for safety reasons — they don't want "live wires" to threaten the linemen.  This is transparent nonsense.  The amount of current coming from a solar panel is scarcely enough to pop the hat off a flea as is, and in any case, since the grid has been shut down due to left-wing political finagling as opposed to any kind of damage, repairmen don't enter the equation anyway.

As for the real reasons, they remain murky.  As with most bureaucratic mysteries of this type, I suspect they comprise a mixture.  Here it would be "rules is rules — solar panels are power generators and all power generators must be shut down on orders of Mother Gaia," along with a desire to stifle any urge toward off-the-grid independence on the part of customers.

It is possible to install solar panels that are not a part of the grid (there's also a third solution involving batteries, but this strikes me as industry trying take advantage of a captive market).  So if you want to go the solar route, it's probably best to dismiss subsidies and whatever pennies the power companies are willing to throw you and go fully independent. 

What can't be denied here is that we're learning an awful lot from the California shutdown — much of it stuff that the powers-that-be would rather we didn't know. 

One valuable lesson has been learned from the California blackouts concerning the greens' vaunted solar power.

People with solar panels fitted to their homes have long acted under the impression that these granted them some immunity to blackouts.  They now know better.  Those who went to the heavy expense of purchasing and installing solar panels are in the same situation as their neighbors: no light, no heat, no power.

How does this make sense?  If you've got a system that generates power all by itself, with no outside aid or assistance necessary, then it's a sure thing that it'll continue generating power even after the grid itself is shut down, right?

Ah, but we're dealing here with corporate policy.  And when that enters the picture, then sense of any kind quickly departs the stage.

It turns out that solar panels do not supply power to the homes they are attached to.  Instead, they transmit power out into the grid itself.  A complex system of credits is employed to reimburse the homeowner.

And when the grid goes down, due to storms, sabotage, or left-wing politics, well, the solar panels that you can see right atop your roof, they go down, too.

The downside of being connected to the grid is that if there is a blackout your solar system will not work. All grid-tied solar systems are installed with an automatic shutoff switch which turns off your solar system in a power outage. 

Pacific Gas & Electric has not gone out of its way to hide this, but it hasn't gone out of its way to publicize it, either.  The information can be found — as above — on almost all solar power sites, if only on the back pages.  You need to look for it, and if you don't know it's there, why would you look?

The claim here is that it's done for safety reasons — they don't want "live wires" to threaten the linemen.  This is transparent nonsense.  The amount of current coming from a solar panel is scarcely enough to pop the hat off a flea as is, and in any case, since the grid has been shut down due to left-wing political finagling as opposed to any kind of damage, repairmen don't enter the equation anyway.

As for the real reasons, they remain murky.  As with most bureaucratic mysteries of this type, I suspect they comprise a mixture.  Here it would be "rules is rules — solar panels are power generators and all power generators must be shut down on orders of Mother Gaia," along with a desire to stifle any urge toward off-the-grid independence on the part of customers.

It is possible to install solar panels that are not a part of the grid (there's also a third solution involving batteries, but this strikes me as industry trying take advantage of a captive market).  So if you want to go the solar route, it's probably best to dismiss subsidies and whatever pennies the power companies are willing to throw you and go fully independent. 

What can't be denied here is that we're learning an awful lot from the California shutdown — much of it stuff that the powers-that-be would rather we didn't know.