California utilities warn frequent blackouts are coming

July 1, 2019 | 3min read

Update: 10/8/2019. Power may be cut off from 29 counties in Northern California due to wildfire risk. Power lines in those counties are designated to be at elevated or extreme risk of damage from high winds

Over the weekend of June 9th to the 10th, PGE shut off power to more than 20,000 customers due to fire risk. PG&E shut off power to about 1,600 customers that were in the vicinity of a wildfire called the Sand Fire. Power has since been restored by both utilities. Preventative blackouts like these are in California’s future as all three major utilities in California are planning to use preventative blackouts to reduce the risk of fires caused by sparking power lines.

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Public safety power shutdowns

The preventative blackouts called public safety power shutdowns are being used by all three of the state’s major utilities. The blackouts could potentially affect millions of California ratepayers during high fire risk conditions. The utility companies warn that these blackouts aren’t intended to last more than 48 hours at a time. But they caution that ratepayers should be prepared just in case the blackouts last longer.

48 Hours notice required

The utility companies are required to give 48 hours notice before any public safety power shutdown. The warning of impending blackouts will come from the California Office of Emergency Services. The weather condition that often causes the hot, dry, windy conditions is called Santa Ana winds. Members of the public can anticipate shutdowns by watching the weather forecast. If Santa Ana winds are forecasted, then the likelihood of a power shutdown is high.

Grid-tied solar only provides power in blackouts if you have a special inverter and/or batteries

During blackouts, a grid-tied solar system disconnects from the grid. This is done to prevent solar systems from sending power into electrical transmission lines that utility crews may be working on. When a solar system is disconnected from the grid, it doesn’t provide power to the home unless you have the right kind of inverter. The brand of inverter that provides power to a home during blackouts is called a Sunny Boy. 

Home batteries are a more reliable source of power during blackouts

Even with a Sunny Boy, you’d still be in the dark when the sun goes down. The only truly reliable solar solution to blackouts is to have a solar system that has home batteries. A system with batteries can be designed to provide power to critical circuits in your home. A good example of a critical circuit is any circuit that powers a home medical device. You may also choose to have a backup generator available for extended blackouts that you don’t have enough battery storage to cover.

Freedom Forever has home batteries

We carry and install the LG Chem Cell home battery. It has 9.8 kilowatts of capacity. Multiple batteries can be installed to provide the power you need. If you live in California and buy a solar system with batteries, you may be eligible for an energy credit called the Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP). The program offers an incentive as high as $400 per kilowatt-hour of installed battery capacity.

The Santa Ana conditions that cause high fire risk mostly happen in late summer and into the fall. If you are considering home solar with batteries, it’s a good idea to get your system installed as soon as possible.

For more information on solar power and home battery solar systems, call us at 800-685-1850 or request a quote.