Solar Alleviates NM Utility Power Shortages
Over the last several years, utilities have struggled to keep up with the electricity needs of New Mexicans. While winter storms cause havoc, the summer months have been catching utilities off guard.
New Mexicans, however, don’t have to deal with lengthy power outages. By taking matters into their own hands, they save themselves from power shortage threats and stresses.
Before diving into how homeowners can prepare against outages, though, consider the causes of these outages.
The Impact Climate Change Has on New Mexico
Climate change is having a significant impact on the weather and resources of this state. The shift in New Mexico weather patterns impacts water supply, agriculture, and electricity generation.
Yes, you read that correctly. Climate change impacts electricity generation and vice versa.
One of the most noticeable results of climate change is the decrease in water. Water has a multitude of uses within the electric sector. These include cooling, creating steam, and other various functions. We have seen a lack of water in several ways.
Snowpack allows drier climates, like New Mexico, to have water in the summer. However, warmer winters have decreased the snowpack in the mountains.
Warmer summers and low snowpack result in low reservoir levels. In March 2021, experts predicted that Elephant Butte Reservoir would only have 35 percent of the typical spring runoff, providing only one month of irrigation water. With the reservoirs already running low, more warm winters and hot summers will only make it worse.
Limited water makes warmer summers dangerous. Without water, plants become spars. What rain does come then leads to flash flooding.
Dry forests are also more susceptible to wildfires. As of June 2021, New Mexico had experienced over 363 wildfires across the state, burning 121,277 acres.
Why New Mexico Utilities Struggle to Keep the Power On
While water is a valuable commodity that plays a role in utility electricity generation, two main factors prevent utilities from keeping the power on. These two factors include an increase in storm-related power outages and old electricity infrastructure.
Increase in Storm Power Outages
While short outages happen for multiple reasons, intense weather tends to cause the most power outages across the nation. A 2014 Climate Central study found that an average of 15 million customers across America, businesses and homes, go without power for at least an hour because of extreme weather every year. The intense weather that causes these outages includes cold weather and ice storms, hurricanes, tropical storms, tornados, extreme heat and wildfires.
While not all of these extreme weather scenarios apply to New Mexico, some do, and hot summers are one. Hot summers cause NM utilities to scramble to provide the increased electricity needs across the state, resulting in summer power outages and rolling blackouts.
Old Electricity Infrastructure
Our current infrastructure doesn’t support quick power outage turnarounds. Different technologies such as smart grids that help increase communication and problem isolation, and islandable microgrids, which pair energy sources with demand, would help create stability. However, waiting for these and other infrastructure updates may take a while.
How Residential Solar Helps Alleviate Power Outage Stress
While many utilities have started adding renewable power to the mix, these options are limited to individuals willing to pay more for them. Residential solar costs customers less and provides security. Residential solar and battery backup can continue to power homes during crises.
How Battery Backup and Solar Protects Individuals
Because of how solar panels work, they can only produce electricity when the sun is out. This chink in solar technology makes battery backup important. Solar batteries store excess solar produced during the day, so homeowners can continue using power no matter the time of day or the weather outside.
Additionally, battery storage allows the homeowner to continue powering essentials or the entire home during a power outage. Solar homes without battery backup will not run during an outage because of the electric code requirements for the automatic shut-off switch.
Natural disasters have increased over the past couple of years, increasing the strain on local utilities. Don’t let it impact your home’s electricity needs.