Are power outages in the United States on the rise? This question has been a hot topic on the internet lately. Pun intended!
In all seriousness, extreme weather conditions, such as unpredictable storms or devastating fires have been increasing in the U.S. over the past decade. Extreme conditions put more pressure on the already overworked power grid and result in more power outages.
This blog addresses the question of why are power outages increasing in the U.S.
- Common causes of power outages
- Why the U.S. suffers more power outages
- The current state of our power grid
- Why are there more power outages
- Extreme weather is causing more frequent and longer power outages
- How to prevent power outages
Let’s start by looking at the reasons power outages occur and the common causes.
What Causes Power Outages?
Power travels from the power plant to the transmission lines and then on to the distribution grid, where it reaches your home. These are the main causes of power outages and they can happen at any stage along this journey.
Distribution problems are the leading cause of power outages. These outages are caused by damage to power lines, poles, or substations.
Distribution failures are usually caused by weather, squirrels being caught in a substation, or car crashes that bring down poles. mylar balloons even getting stuck in the lines.
Transmission failure is the next cause of power loss. Although it happens less often, its effects can be more severe. Inclement weather can cause transmission failures. This can affect equipment across states or cities, leading to widespread power outages lasting hours or even days.
Shortage Of Supply
Supply shortages are the third type of power loss. Although rare, these could be a growing concern as severe weather events are on the rise.
This is when the demand for power is greater than usual, such as in extreme heat or extreme cold. If the power grid is unable to keep up with demand, it could fail. This was the reason for the large-scale power outages in Texas after the grid was subject to an unprecedented freeze in February 2021.
A planned outage is the last type of power loss. This is when the electricity company shuts off power temporarily to make repairs or for the safety of the public.
This could be the case when an electricity supplier believes that the power lines may catch fire (for instance, during the California wildfires). Shutting off power is better than creating a dangerous situation for the public.
Why the U.S. has such a high number of power outages
It’s not unusual for power outages to appear on a regular basis. In the United States, power outages are almost a daily occurrence.
- In other words, outages that affected more than 50,000 homes and businesses on a large scale were 10 times more frequent during the time period from the mid-1980s through 2012.
- affected 13.2 Million with 3,571 outages in 2015.
- In 2016, the average customer of a utility had 1.3 power outages lasting four hours.
The U.S. is experiencing increasing power outages due to the aging process. The majority of the grid was built in the 1950s and 60s. The grid also had a 50-year life expectancy after completion. These are the oldest power lines in the nation. They were built in the 1880s.
It is clear that some components of the power grid have outlived their useful life. It’s not surprising that equipment from the past is starting to fail in major ways.
Current (And Questionable!) State Of Our Power Grid
To be fair, the electric sector has spent a significant amount on measures to improve the reliability, transmission, and distribution capabilities of America’s power grid. The annual expenditure on high voltage transmission lines grew from $15.6 billion in 2012, to $21.9 billion by 2017. In addition, the annual amount spent on high voltage transmission lines increased by 54% in 20 years.
Despite all these efforts, the power grid remains vulnerable to stressors such as the following:
- Storms becoming more severe
- Wildfires are becoming more common and more widespread
- Americans expect an “always-on” electric system.
- An increasing number of people rely on electronics
These stresses on the power grid could cause outages to be more frequent than usual.
Why Power Outages Are Increasing
There are many reasons that bolstering the power grid can be beneficial. However, state regulators have rejected some of the proposed measures. Solutions such as burying power lines underground or creating “microgrids”, could increase already rising energy prices. Last year, the grid improvements that were under review by regulators received $3.4 billion and $15.7 billion approvals.
However, extreme weather events such as storms and wildfires are increasing in frequency and severity each year. This is due to climate change. Wildfires that cause destruction are now the norm. Many of these fires can decimate entire towns, or even several. They also bring down power lines.
In 2020, the average American home suffered eight hours of blackouts. This is twice the amount of outages that were experienced five years ago. These outages were mainly caused by severe weather events. There were 11 major hurricanes that impacted the U.S. in the same year.
How can you protect yourself against increasing power outages
How can you protect yourself from power outages?
Three words: solar panel batteries.
The solar energy system is designed to turn off the power grid if it fails. Utility workers could be shocked while trying to restore electricity.
You might be wondering how solar energy could give you complete independence from the grid. Here is where solar batteries come in.
Sometimes your solar panels will produce more power than what you require for your home. You have the option to store excess power in solar cells. This excess power can be used at night or during a blackout to power essential and critical loads. It is simple and seamless to switch the power supply from the solar array to solar panel batteries.
This is how Solar Batteries store power generated from your solar panel:
- The solar panels capture sunlight.
- A microinverter is a device that converts sunlight into energy for your home.
- The amount of solar energy required to run your lights, appliances, and HVAC system is what you use.
- The solar batteries store any unutilized solar power so you can use whenever it is needed.
It is as easy and as effective as it gets!
Solar energy batteries offer more than just keeping the lights on during power outages. Other benefits include
- Having power available during maintenance of power lines
- You can make significant long-term energy savings
- You can take better control over your home’s energy consumption
- You can avoid rates that rise during peak energy consumption hours.
- Evenings without power grid independence
Different types of solar panel batteries are made from different materials, just like other types of batteries. Lithium ion batteries are the best because they can last longer and hold a charge for longer than other types.
It is important to seek the advice of a specialist in solar energy for selecting the best type of solar battery for your needs.
- How much energy do you use at home
- Your size for your solar panel system
- Your solar energy system’s equipment and appliances
Break From The Unstable Power Grid
You don’t need to feel like there is imminent doom whenever an extreme weather condition hits your area. You can have more energy independence by using solar panel batteries to power your solar array. This is because you are using an eco-friendly energy source.
ESD Solar’s solar energy experts can help you learn more about solar panel batteries. We can assist you in choosing the right type of battery to meet your energy needs.
This post was written by Daniel Massaad, owner and expert solar technician at Energy Solutions Direct! ESD Solar offers knowledgeable and efficient solar panel installation in Dayton Ohio! Our licensed and certified contractors are masters of their craft; with years of experience servicing the great Tampa Bay area and beyond, the choice is simple. ESD excels at offering you the best in solar value!