Solar PV’s experiences with Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy brought some good news and some disappointments related to PV to the people of the North East USA. Two of the most popular US media outlets – The New York Times and Bloomberg Businessweek – had some interesting stories about the impact of Sandy on the PV installations.
First, the disappointment . Many of the residents thought that their residential rooftop PV systems were ” off the grid”(meaning, not tied to the grid) and will work even when the grid fails. But in reality, they were grid-tied and were disabled automatically when the power-grid was switched off. Unlike in Germany where many of the PV system owners also have battery storage, residences in US tend not to have storage. One interesting observation was that an electric car(like a Chevy Volt or a Tesla) can be used as a storage device and in some cases, it can power a whole house for more than a day. In India, Mahindra is promoting its Electrical Vehicle REVA as a power back-up in case of outages(Click here to learn more).
Second, the good news. Most of the PV modules did not fly away even at wind speeds of 90 mph(145 km/hr). Compare this with what happened at some of the solar PV farms in Rajasthan. Industry insiders had reported that lot of PV modules in a few PV farms(under JNNSM Batch 1) in Rajasthan flew away during one of the sand storms that passed through these farms.  One of the residents reported that the solar panels withstood the fury of the hurricane and even protected the roof by taking a lot of impact on itself.
Here is a video taken during Hurricane Irene which shows how the PV modules were unaffected during the hurricane.

Perhaps most importantly, the solar power systems helped during the relief work by providing emergency power where it was difficult to find one.To quote the NYT article  “Being able to have enough electricity to jump-start a car, run an electric heater for the night or have a Wi-Fi hot spot,” he added, “would allow people to maintain that sense of normalcy that is so necessary, from an emotional and psychological perspective to a physical, survival perspective.”
Feels good, isn’t it? The full New York Times article is available here and the Businessweek article is here.