To Make the Palisades More Resilient, Look to the Sun

Ryan Craig  FEBRUARY 11, 2021

Solving the climate change emergency will require changing behavior. Unfortunately, only a small minority of Americans are currently willing to make the necessary changes in how they live, and the same is true in most other countries. As a result, in order to address climate change within the narrow window scientists estimate we may still have, new approaches are urgently required.


One strategy taken by the new Biden Administration is jobs. Going green means new industries, and millions of good green jobs. Another promising approach to behavioral change is resilience. Last week, Gina McCarthy, President Biden’s new climate advisor, said that in order to get the “middle of the country understanding and active on climate, we need to show them what resilience looks like.” In the climate context, resilience means the ability for society and supporting infrastructure to absorb stresses – hazardous events, weather, or disturbances – caused by climate change. Resilience does not mean acceptance of a warming climate, but rather the ability to continue in the face of adversity and bounce back from calamity. Given the natural disasters that have plagued the “middle of the country” in the past year – record heat, drought, tornadoes, hurricanes, and – yes – Covid-19 – appealing to resilience may be the best approach for convincing tens of millions more Americans to support and make the changes we need.


One key to resilience, as McCarthy pointed out in her talk last week, is energy storage. Most people who’ve thought about energy storage have done so in terms of battery capacity of electric vehicles. Cars like Tesla or the Chevy Bolt are appealing, but how far do they go on one charge, and what does that mean for mobility, or taking the family away on vacation? We’ve already seen major advances in electric vehicles, and the next decade should be exciting; General Motors just committed to phase out all gas-powered vehicles – including SUVs and trucks – by 2035.


But the amount of energy we need for vehicles pales in comparison with what we use at home. This is why the resilience battle must be won at home. And as we change over to electric cars – which will be charged at home – home energy demand will continue to climb. So increasing home resilience from failures in the electrical grid – blackouts and brownouts – will be increasingly important.


In the Palisades, our relative isolation and dependence on our municipal utility has meant more than our fair share of blackouts. This is in part a result of LADWP’s inability to improve distribution to meet our community’s growing power needs. You may recall opposition a few years ago to building a new distribution station in the western Palisades, which led to the installation of “temporary” pole-top distribution stations.


As a result, energy storage at home should be on the radar of all Palisadian families. Currently, the only way to store energy at home is through a solar energy + storage system, which is a great option in our sunny community. Solar + storage improves on simply installing solar panels by allowing homes to store all power produced by panels and utilize that power when needed – even when the sun isn’t shining. Hundreds of Palisadian families have already installed solar panels and connected them up to a battery system like a Tesla Powerwall. And there are now dozens of storage options, as well as several providers of bundled solar + storage (including providers of solar + storage as a service, minimizing or eliminating upfront investment).


There are three primary benefits of solar + storage. The first is combatting climate change by shifting home energy consumption to non-emitting solar. The second is economic: reducing LADWP bills. But the third is resilience. Solar + storage homes have a built-in generator – the solar battery – that can continue to provide power to the home during a blackout or following a natural disaster.


Solar + storage can make your home and family more resilient. But it doesn’t necessarily make our entire community more resilient. At Resilient Palisades, we believe no home is an island, so we are busy reviewing solar + storage options that can help us build a bridge to community-wide resilience. Our hope is that excitement around community resilience will convince hundreds or thousands more Palisadian families and businesses to join the solar + storage revolution. Watch for announcements and news in the coming months as we aim to harness the power of the sun to combat climate change while making the Palisades much more resilient.


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