As the world around you violently shakes, those standing are knocked to the ground with disorienting force. Picture frames fly across the room and shatter while TV’s fall off their stands. Shelves and their contents bury tumbling furniture. Rupture of the ground surface forms jagged ledges up to 20 feet high tracing the Wasatch Fault from Draper to North Salt Lake. Liquification of the sediment in lowland areas cause hundreds of landslides and rockfalls throughout the Salt Lake valley. Older homes crumble and some skyscrapers topple. Highways fracture and gas and water lines sever. Fires ignite as power lines snap.
It’s fair to say this is a devastating scenario. In fact, this is the scenario of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake which has been coined The Great Utah Shakeout, and it could happen any day now.
Apart from the immediate dangers of such a large earthquake, power supply will be crucial in surviving the aftermath. Due to such catastrophic damage to Utah infrastructure, Utahans will likely be without grid-power for weeks . Not only should you be concerned with the impending Great Utah Shakeout, smaller and more frequent earthquakes can be damaging to your power supply. Solar PV panels accompanied by backup batteries are an excellent solution to power your home in the aftermath of catastrophic earthquakes.
The Sleeping Giant
We have a sleeping giant underneath our feet and she could wake any day. Utah records hundreds of small earthquakes each year, however, high-magnitude earthquakes occur along the Wasatch Fault every 400 years or so. You’re probably asking yourself when the last one was. The last high-magnitude earthquake in Utah was, yup you guessed it, 400 years ago on the Wasatch fault just North of Nephi.
To better understand the scale of damage this impending 7.0 magnitude earthquake will cause, let’s put some numbers to it. According to projections by the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, the Great Utah Shakeout will cause:
- $33 billion in short-term economic loss
- More than 84,000 households will be displaced with nearly 53,000 individuals seeking shelters
- 2,500 deaths with 9,300 more injured
- Loss of electricity, gas, water, and sewer for days to months
Rocky Mountain Power After the Earthquake
In terms of electricity, Rocky Mountain Power is expected to shut off the entire grid for the first 24-48 hours for safety evaluation. After 7 days of evaluation and repair, up to 75% of homes are expected to have power. Even then, the power supply is expected to be spotty in those homes due to aftershocks.
Should Utah Only Be Worried About 7.0 Earthquakes?
Not only should you be concerned with the sleeping giant, smaller and more frequent earthquakes can disrupt your power supply. We’ve been focusing on The Great Utah Shakeout which will be magnitude 7, but even earthquakes of magnitude 5 or 6 can be damaging Utah’s power grid. Unfortunately, earthquakes of this magnitude come more frequently: averaging 1 every 7 years.
Solar Systems in a Blackout
Solar PV panels accompanied by a back-up battery are an excellent way to prepare your home for when disaster hits. Although this may seem unintuitive, solar PV panels alone cannot power a home when the grid is down. There are two reasons for this: one technical and one safety.
- The technical reason: solar systems are constantly adjusting the power (voltage and current) they produce in order to keep the panels working at the most efficient level when the sunlight isn’t constant. For the solar system to be this efficient, it needs to produce levels of power that don’t depend on what the home is actually using. This means that when the solar system is generating more power than the home uses, the excess power is routed to the grid and used by your neighbors. When the solar system is generating less than the home uses, the grid-power supplements your solar system. In short, if you were to directly connect the solar system to the home’s electrical system, the power would fluctuate causing light bulbs to blink and appliances to turn off and on. This damages your electronics and appliances.
- The safety reason: when the grid is down, crews of linemen and women work on power lines to repair them. Safety regulation requires that when the grid is down, solar systems are also shut down to prevent power leaking into the grid jeopardizing the safety of the linemen and women.
Altaray Solar solves the problem of using solar power when the grid is down by offering the sonnen ecoLinx with your solar system. This new technology stores excess power produced by your solar system during the day which can be used during a power-grid failure. Sonnen is the industry leader in backup batteries. It has 20 kilowatt hours of storage with a maximum output of 8 kilowatt hours at any time. This is enough to power your essential electronics for hours or even days. Built with Lithium-Ion Iron Phosphate, Sonnen are proven superior in safety, reliability, and performance. The coolest part of this backup battery is ecoLinx- its smart energy management system. EcoLinx allows for things like smart weather forecasting, smart demand control, and load management for the most efficient use of your solar power during day-to-day use. Most importantly, you can configure backup power to your most essential electronics for when the power-grid goes down. In the aftermath of The Great Utah Shakeout, or even more frequent earthquakes, the ability to have light, refrigerate perishable food, and provide heat will be critical.
To see what it would take to prepare your home with solar and EcoLinx, reach out here!