The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Vote Solar have announced their support for legislation filed in the Florida state legislature this week, H.B.1133, that would demonstrate solar and energy storage’s ability to maintain grid resilience during natural disasters and states of emergency.
As the solar groups explains, the bill would establish a pilot program in the Florida Keys to install on-site solar generation and energy storage to provide electricity to critical facilities during grid outages or failures, like the recent Hurricane Irma.
“As we’ve recently experienced first-hand with Hurricane Irma, there’s nothing more crucial in the wake of a disaster than power. On-site solar energy storage systems are a forward-thinking solution to improving the security of energy supply at critical local facilities,” says Florida State Representative Holly Raschein, who is H.B.1133’s main sponsor. “Given that Florida is the Sunshine State, it only makes sense to tap into this resource when planning for stronger communities that are more resilient in recovering from a disaster.”
The pilot program would measure the benefits of resilience assistance to support the energy needs of critical facilities, such as emergency shelters, hospitals and health facilities, airports, and emergency response units, like police and fire departments. Solar and energy storage can immediately offset these facilities’ power needs, provide backup energy during a grid outage, and store energy isolated from the utility’s electrical system for emergencies. They also eliminate the need for backup diesel generators.
“This is a crucial step in preparing Florida for future emergencies, and we thank Rep. Holly Raschein for her leadership,” says Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “Making sure our first responders and critical facilities have the power they need to deliver life-saving services during emergencies should be a top priority for any state, and solar-plus-storage is the easiest and most-effective solution. This pilot program would demonstrate the effectiveness of solar and storage in maintaining grid resilience and help lawmakers implement this strategy on a larger scale.”
“Solar energy is already becoming a huge success story in Florida, and the excitement around new battery technology has been growing since it proved itself in the days after Irma, keeping lights and refrigerators on for families when the power grid was down for days,” says Scott Thomasson, Southeast director of Vote Solar. “Scaling solar and energy storage as a strategic backup resource during disasters could have a real impact on people’s lives and security.”
The solar groups urge the Florida legislature to pass this bill, implementing the pilot programs and corresponding Florida Solar Energy Center study measuring the benefits of the program. The call comes as the solar industry continues its efforts to help rebuild hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico and after solar advocates successfully rallied behind a pro-solar bill in Florida last year.