Solar’s Saving Grace During the 2022 Hurricane SeasonFebruary 10, 2023
Solar is often touted as a renewable and sustainable energy source. It is also environmentally friendly and cost-effective for homeowners looking to save on energy bills. What many people don’t realize is that solar can be a lifesaver during (and after) extreme weather events such as hurricanes, when power has been lost and restoration is not being measured in hours or days but rather in weeks and months.
The 2022 hurricane season taught many of us not only the frightening power of nature unleashed, but also how solar energy can play a role in recovery after such an event. Let’s take a look at the saving role solar power played in Puerto Rico and Florida after two major hurricanes this past season.
2022 Hurricane Season Recap
The 2022 hurricane season produced 14 named storms, of which eight became hurricanes with winds of 74 mph or greater, and two intensified to major hurricanes with winds reaching 111 mph or greater, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Two hurricanes we are focusing on today are Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Fiona and the devastation they caused.
Hurricane Ian made landfall first as a Category 4 storm in Cayo Costa, Florida, and again as a Category 1 in Georgetown, South Carolina. As a Category 4 with 150 mph maximum sustained winds, Hurricane Ian tied for the fifth-strongest hurricane ever to make landfall in the U.S.
Hurricane Fiona made landfall outside of the mainland U.S. as a Category 1 near Punta Tocon, Puerto Rico. Areas of the island were hit with two feet of rain, mudslides, and widespread flooding.
Both Fiona and Ian were late-season storms that knocked out powerlines and caused massive infrastructure issues including the destruction of streets and bridges which made recovering even more daunting. In total, the two storms knocked out power to 4 million customers in Florida and the entire island of Puerto Rico! Some of the grid on the mainland bounced back quickly while other areas measured restoration in weeks, if not longer.
The Critical Role of Solar Energy
In the hours during and immediately after both hurricanes, Americans realized the benefits of owning a self-reliant home with solar power. While solar energy could not stop localized flooding and toppled trees, it was able to keep many homes running even during the storms.
Puerto Rico, in particular, had the help of solar companies that used the power of the sun to assist thousands of residents keep their homes at least partially energized with aggregated backup power through portable solar panels.
As a result, more than 2,000 families per month are adding solar power to their homes according to Politico’s article on “Hurricanes Fiona and Ian gave solar power its time to shine.”
In Florida, a community known as Babcock Ranch, America’s “first solar-powered town” was able to keep the lights on during Hurricane Ian. The ranch, situated near where Ian made landfall was able to recover from the storm mostly unscathed and held on to their power even through the height of the storm with 140 mph winds. After the storm, solar-powered homes were even used to help power nearby homes that had lost power in their homes.
Humans may not be able to control the power of nature, but with solar power and new advancements in energy, we are able to weather the storm and recover a bit faster.