As I am sure many of you are still hearing about the aftermath of this storm, or trying to living through it right now, I want to start off this blog post with a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Years to you and your family. For me, the power went out in the wee hours of Sunday and came back on Tuesday afternoon; I can’t think of a better gift for Santa to bring me this Christmas. This post’s origin started as I was taking a hot shower on Christmas Day and thinking about robustness of our electrical systems.
The hot shower I took on Christmas was not the first since the power went out; thankfully, I live in a building that still has a LPG-driven water heater. That meant hot water during the coldest periods of the blackout to restore some level of civility. I talked to a few people living in newer homes who did not have hot water because their tank-less heaters are power-driven, and their home phones stopped working after the battery backup ran out. What seems worrisome to me about this type of house design is the single point of failure for the house’s various services, there doesn’t seem to be any attention paid to the principle of redundancies.
This was the springboard to the main topic of this article. I believe there are other ways of understanding and selling alternative forms of electricity generation. Just as there are other ways to ensure some house services remain in service during power outage. Alternative modes of electricity generation like wind, solar PV and geothermal are not intended to REPLACE other sources that are more energy dense but only to augment them. Let’s put it this way, it’s way easier to install wind, solar PV and geothermal at your house than it is to install a hydropower plant beside your shed. In the case of power outage, it is likely that geothermal and wind will continue to provide minimal heat and electricity to a house while waiting for the power grid to be reinstated. In many mission critical operations this is known as building redundancies and is considered a best practice. I think this particular line of thinking has a place in the present municipal/provincial/state discussions on energy generation robustness.