The Case for Grid-Tied Battery Backup Solar Systems

In his book, Lights Out, veteran newsman Ted Koppel says blackouts could happen anywhere and everywhere..LightsOut3dcover

In 2003, Koppel wrote, when “a high-voltage power line in northern Ohio brushed against some trees and shut down…fifty million people lost power for up to two days in an area that spanned southeastern Canada and eight northeastern states.”

In 2014, when two terrorists with AK-47 rifles shot up a substation near San Jose, California, it took 27 days to restore power to Silicon Valley.

Tomorrow, says Koppel, one hostile hacker armed with nothing more lethal than a laptop could take down “three power grids that generate and distribute electricity throughout the United States,” plunging “millions of Americans into…something approximating the mid-nineteenth century.”

For months.

Months without light, heating or cooling. Months with food rotting in refrigerators and freezers. Months with stoves that can’t cook, toilets that can’t flush, washing machines that can’t wash.


That’s because, according to Lights Out, our power generation and distribution system suffers from three major vulnerabilities.

The first is that

electricity flowing throughout the United States depends absolutely on computerized systems designed to maintain perfect balance between supply and demand…It is the Internet that provides the instant access to the computerized systems that maintain that equilibrium. If a sophisticated hacker gained access to one of those systems and succeeded in throwing that precarious balance out of kilter, the consequences would be devastating. We can take limited comfort in the knowledge that such an attack would require painstaking preparation and a highly sophisticated understanding of how the system works and where its vulnerabilities lie. Less reassuring is the knowledge that several nations already have that expertise…As the ranks of capable actors grow, the bar for cyber aggression is lowered.

The second is a physical, not cyber, threat.

The nature of the electric power industry is such that it combines modern technology with antiquated equipment. Some of that equipment is so large, so expensive, and so difficult to replace that it constitutes an entire category of vulnerability…No country in the world has a larger base of installed large power transformers than the United States, and that base is aging…on average, thirty-eight to forty years old…Conservatively, there are thousands of aging transformers, most custom-built, unable to be ordered from a catalogue or mass-produced, each costing somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million to $10 million…[and] so large they cannot be transported on a standard railroad freight car.

If saboteurs with high-powered rifles were to knock out large power transformers in nine critical substations – like the one in San Jose ­– “it could cause a blackout encompassing most of the United States.”

And that’s because of the third vulnerability, the cascade effect. As cyberattacked or sabotaged equipment starts to fail, the electric grid’s harder and harder tries to compensate cause more failures. “Overburdened lines fall like dominoes.”

When and if this happens, says the Department of Homeland Security, you should keep a battery-powered radio handy. We have a better idea: a battery-powered house.DCBatteryPower_Illust_HR

A Milestone Solar installation with a sealed, gel-filled backup battery bank keeps your lights lighting, your refrigerator and freezer refrigerating and freezing, your microwave cooking, your well pump pumping, your toilets flushing, your washer washing, and so on.

Not just for days (and nights, thanks to the batteries), not just for weeks and months, but for as long as the sun rises each morning.

Unlike emergency backup generators, there’s no danger of toxic exhaust fumes, no moving parts to wear out, and no chance of fuel running out before the lights come back on; a Milestone Solar system with battery backup “refuels” with each sunrise.

As one pleased customer noted,

even with just a little daylight in the morning, well before direct sun hits the panels, the system kicks in and starts producing.

Milestone Solar has installed more solar systems with battery backup banks than anyone else in the region over the past five years. So please contact us to learn more. About an investment that gets you an average of $9,000-$11,000 in tax creditsincreases your property value, and saves you hundreds of dollars a year on your monthly electric bills when the power’s on. And could save something even more vital when the power goes out.