These past few years have proven to be some of the harshest concerning natural disasters. Americans are struggling to build back resilience between the wildfires on the western part of the United States and the inclement winter weather that significantly impacted Texans last year.
Although these are natural disasters, their effects, like injuries, deaths, and forced migration, can be blamed on a prolonged manmade disaster, which includes lack of planning and failure to invest in appropriate infrastructure. The effects of these natural disasters could have been prevented to an extent with more reliable and sustainable power sources.
For generations, cities and areas prone to natural disasters have relied on backup generators to power their businesses and residents’ homes during disasters. Generators work for a short while to ensure that critical operations can continue in the event of a power outage. This is what happened in Texas last year, but unfortunately, it wasn’t reliable enough to heat homes, and many people died due to hypothermia.
This approach to powering areas that experience power failures are called high reliability. Even if government officials can prepare for a natural or manmade disaster, they have simply added another generator for extra support.
Again, in Texas, large areas of the power grid were damaged, which means nearly everyone in the area had to rely on generators. If someone didn’t have a generator, though, they were without any electricity. This occurs in other sites at high risk for natural disasters, such as the western U.S. with wildfires and the southeastern part of the U.S. where hurricanes hit. Unfortunately, this threatens vulnerable community members.
One possible solution that could bolster disaster resilience is the integration of microgrids in cities and other communities. Microgrids are smaller energy systems, and they’re independently controlled. Instead of relying on one power source, they often rely on multiple at a time, like wind, solar and geothermal. This increases the chances of having power in inclement weather.
Additionally, microgrids can connect to larger utility grids. During a natural disaster, they would be able to provide power to critical operating facilities. As with renewable energy, microgrids can store energy through systems of batteries, meaning they’re able to run continuously, even during lengthy outages. Besides that, microgrids help with energy efficiency, reduce carbon footprints, offer economic benefits and ensure that vital services remain in operation.
Microgrids can assist with disaster resilience in cities and even in rural areas. With microgrids dotting regions, it ensures that power will be available no matter what kind of disaster occurs.
When a natural or manmade disaster strikes, more than just the power grid is vulnerable to destruction. The water system, food and other amenities cannot function without some sort of power. A hurricane can quickly wipe out a city, and the residents are left to find food, water and other products that they need for survival.
Out of all of these, though, freshwater is the most important. Exposure to contaminated floodwaters not only poses health risks if your drink it, but also can cause skin rashes, infected wounds, stomach issues, and tetanus. Having microgrids can provide areas with smaller power systems that filter water to ensure people drink potable water. They can easily access enough power from the microgrid that allows them to boil water until it is safe to drink, which can help a city survive long after a disaster hits. Having ensured access to power for these situations allows communities to build back resilience more quickly.
Microgrids help to diversify power sources. Although generators can be somewhat reliable in some situations, the push towards renewable energy has made it clear that renewables are more dependable. Electricity on the grid comes from one source. Renewable energy allows for multiple streams of electricity, ensuring that no matter what kind of disaster strikes, there will be power available to build resilience in the cities.
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See more posts from Jane Marsh at environment.co