Flames burn near power lines in Montecito, Calif. on Dec. 16, 2017.(Mike Eliason / Associated Press)

For homeowners, losing power means insecurity — for businesses, it means loss of revenue. There now exists a direct correlation between blackouts, the electric grid, and wildfires in California.

The challenge created by wildfires in that state cannot be overstated. Only recently at a hardware store in Sonoma, people had to line up to be escorted outside by flashlight due to a scheduled blackout.

According to Stanford economist Michael Wara, the economic impacts of blackouts vary a lot, depending on who is blacked out, and whether it’s a home, factory or supermarket. He estimates that turning off power could cost as much as $2.6 billion.

That’s why many Californians, in a recent survey, say they would consider the prospects of going solar.

The survey, conducted by Vivint Solar, of a representative sample of California homeowners, concludes they would consider solar technology over outages.

Almost half of the homeowners surveyed revealed that they would find a power outage lasting longer than two hours “very stressful” and nearly two-thirds believed a power outage was “inevitable” within the next year.

This data is illuminating in light of the recent announcement by Pacific Gas & Electric stating that it would be cutting off power in many parts of northern and central California in hopes of preventing wildfires caused by the utility’s power lines.

PG&E has scheduled rolling power outages that will affect around 800,000 homes and businesses in northern California in an attempt to prevent seasonal wildfires.

The region’s utility company has warned the shutdown affecting large swathes of the San Francisco Bay Area could last several days.

The emergency measures had been brought about due to a forecast of high winds and “bone dry heat”, which is expected to put pressure on the state’s deteriorating infrastructure.

“The conditions are ripe: dry fuel, high winds, warm event. Any spark can create a significant event,” said Ray Riordan, director of the Office of Emergency Management in San Jose.

These precautionary measures are being taken after sparks from power lines, last year, ignited a blaze that killed dozens of people, in what is being called the “deadliest wildfire in California’s history”.

Overall, 315 respondents participated in the August 2019 Vivint Solar survey.

Derick Lila
Derick is a Clark University graduate—and Fulbright alumni with a Master's Degree in Environmental Science, and Policy. He has over a decade of solar industry research, marketing, and content strategy experience.

JA Solar granted patent rights to gallium-doped silicon wafers for solar cell applications from Shin-Etsu Chemical

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