Hurricane season is an anxious time for people living in zones frequently hit by tropical storms, including Florida. High winds and flooding associated with these tempests produce devastation from which communities may take months to recover. While homeowners do their best to secure their property, their efforts are not always successful. Even the most exhaustive preparations can not prevent widespread power failure. Because of this, relying on the grid, and its eventual restoration results in disruption to the lives of many families. Still, those who opt for solar energy can protect themselves from the worst effects of these storm-induced power outages.
Solar panels, most often installed on a roof, absorb photons from the sun’s rays into their PV (photovoltaic) cells. These cells themselves contain internal electrical fields that generate the flow of electricity. This flow is direct current (DC) and must go through an inverter to become alternating current (AC), the predominant current in homes and offices. From the inverter, the energy goes to the breaker box. From there, electricity is directed to various outlets and appliances throughout the house. Surplus power goes back to the electrical grid for that region of the country.
A common knock on solar energy is that it only works in the presence of sunlight. That is a partial truth. While solar panels can not receive photons at night or when the sun’s rays are obstructed, storage technology has come a long way and solar home batteries are able to power household activities for long stretches of time. Solar power, then, is a viable way to preserve energy in the house, especially when the grid ceases to be a source, as in the case of a hurricane and tropical storm ravages.
As solar panels collect energy during bright and clear days, surplus power not consumed by regular household operations flows to the home battery for storage. In the event of hurricane and gale-force winds, when the electrical grid components are subject to damage and disruption, the solar battery takes over from the circuit box in terms of directing electricity. This allows refrigerators and freezers to preserve perishable foods and certain critical medications as well. Furthermore, it allows air conditioning and other climate regulation to continue without pause. These are important measures, especially when the elderly, disabled, or otherwise infirm are occupying the dwelling. In addition, residents have ongoing access to electronic media in order to keep abreast of weather developments.
Fortunately, improved design and materials make solar panels ever more durable against the violence inflicted by hurricanes. When category-4 Hurricane Maria wrought havoc on Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, one lone Veterans Affairs hospital served as a power oasis in blacked-out San Juan. Not only did its rooftop solar panels withstand the storm, but they were also operating at 100 percent capacity.