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Energy Storage Isn’t Just about Keeping the Lights On

In the energy storage business, we know that emergency back-up power provides value beyond simply keeping the lights on and re-charging your smartphone for another round of Candy Crush. That value was on clear display for the approximately 1,100 residents of Washington, DC, who were hit with a boiling water advisory when a power outage at the nearby Ft. Reno Pumping Station resulted in unsafe drinking water for the area community.  

The Washington Post catalogued a wide array of impacts beyond the water boiling advisory, which included disruptions to local schools, universities, and businesses.

  • Seven schools in Ward 3 did not serve breakfast and parents were told to pack lunches for their children due to a limited supply of food at the schools. Bottled water and 1,150 meals had to be delivered to the various impacted facilities.
  • All but two dining facilities at American Unviersity were temporarily shut down and hundreds of gallons of bottled water had to be shipped in to the campus.
  • Local restaurants were able to remain open but faced delays in serving customers.

Fortunately, the water advisory only lasted a few days, but there are very significant costs to even relatively brief power outages. The Congressional Research Service is the research arm of the Library of Congress and analyzed in 2012 the impacts of weather-related power outages on electric system resiliency. It reviewed a 2001 study by the Electric Power Research Institute about the economic impacts and highlighted the impact on industrial and other sectors in the "digital economy" that are especially dependent on electricity:

EPRI estimated the annual cost of outages across all U.S. business sectors at $104 billion to $164 billion in 2001. With EPRI estimating the average number of power outages in a year over five minutes at 43% (see Figure 3), a reasonable estimate for the annual economic cost yields a possible $20 billion to $31 billion.

But note that this significant economic cost was a result of relatively short outages:

According to CRS, EPRI's analysis found the "average cost of a one-hour outage for manufacturing and [digital economy] firms at $7,795 per firm." For some companies, the cost of a one-hour outage was $20,000 or more, and even reached as high as $1.5 million!

This does not mean that every business will lose $1.5 million if the lights go out for an hour due to a downed power line or other disturbance to the grid. But the CRS and EPRI research, among others, highlight just how disruptive even temporary losses of electricity can be for our communities, especially as technology becomes an evermore important part of our routine, our quality of life, and our companies' bottom line. Solar Grid Storage is experienced working with a range of customers, including project developers, businesses, universities, and schools, to craft energy storage solutions that enable consumers to go solar and have peace of mind that their solar will work for them when they need it most.

If you are a project developer or installer and want to know more, feel free to contact us.

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