Following Fires, Solar Advocates Seek Bigger Part in California Electric Grid

Many in California are going solar, like Côme Lague, knowing a perk is that it can allow businesses to continue operating even during harsh weather conditions.


Out in the Sierra Nevada Foothills, a man named Côme Lague started to reconsider requirements at the vineyard and winery he owns after receiving a notice from Co. He ultimately decided to strongly focus on power.

A Solar Solution

According to the notice Lague received, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. could shut off power lines during harsh weather conditions because of the risk of wildfires being sparked by utility equipment. In the past, a planned power outage had not been done by this company, but it is being considered as a last resort for the future.

Lague was worried about how this might impact his vineyard and winery, . Knowing power is crucial for keeping his business up and running, he knew he would need a plan. Lague decided to make some solar changes.

A Complex Solar Installation

Lague had a solar system on his property but he was still worried about having to depend on a generator. His decision was ultimately to expand the solar system so if power were to be shut off to stop a fire from occurring, his business could still “power on.”

Solar power advocates believe technology can play a large role in the state of ’s electric grid. While the likelihood of harsh weather conditions is increasing due to climate change, and the risk of fueling horrible wildfires is there, it is important to come up with feasible alternatives.

California could take what Lague is doing with his winery and solar power, and essentially use this as a blueprint. Solar panels and batteries could be used to create and store power, letting businesses as well as homes keep their lights on without relying on a generator.

In California, there has been a lot accomplished to expand the usage of solar power. There are laws requiring solar panels on new homes. Of course, if you ask the California Solar and Storage Association, there is still room to do more.

As per the industry group’s executive director, Bernadette Del Chiaro, it’s been thought for quite some time that distributed solar is a crucial component to stopping some of the impacts of climate change. There is a sense of urgency regarding the wildfires and the role of the grid. Unfortunately, utilities can be reluctant to embrace distributed energy.

James Noonan, spokesperson for Pacific Gas and Electric Co., claims the utility has a commitment to solar power. New legislative proposals would need to be reviewed before a position is held on them.

More than 360,000 solar customers have been connected to the energy grid, which Noonan said represents “roughly a quarter of private rooftop solar in the USA.” Each month, the utility connects approximately 5,000 new solar customers to the grid.

Solar Plans for the Future

There are six solar projects scheduled to come online in 2019 thanks to PG&E. They will generate 325 megawatts of power, as per Noonan. Utility projects like these are helping California fulfill its climate goals, including the goal of 9 gigawatts of new solar power projects installed by 2030, in accordance with vice president for state affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association, Sean Gallagher.

Gallagher wants to see the state’s lawmakers discover a way to get the procurement on track for new solar projects. He also wants to see efforts made toward a comprehensive community solar program that would let customers who can’t have their own solar system subscribe to a piece of a bigger project.

Sunrun, a leading residential solar company, sees an opening in California because of the wildfires. The company is paying attention to state regulators’ attempts to put together new rules regarding planned power outages and plans to have involvement in those measures in the future.

Côme Lague made the decision to personally supervise all aspects of his solar expansion. He did not want to depend on fossil fuel-powered generators to sustain his winery. Previously, his vineyard had an 8-kilowatt solar panel system. This solar system was able to generate enough energy to break even on his electric bill but it was not enough to power his entire property if Pacific Gas and Electric Co. lines were to be turned off.

Expanding the system and adding 39 additional solar panels made sense. This expanded solar system will be able to power 75 percent of what the vineyard and winery would utilize at the “worst time” for its electricity requirements. Lague has turned everything into a company called Sun Safe Power.

Follow solar news to stay in the know regarding new developments in the world of solar! It is fascinating to learn what innovative individuals are coming up with to keep things up and running using the power of the sun.



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