Homeowners in California face the risk of power outages during wildfires, which can be a major safety concern. To address this challenge, Blue Planet Energy partnered with Sun First Solar to install an energy storage system that provides reliable backup power during outages. This case study details the challenges and solutions associated with implementing an energy storage system for residential properties in wildfire-prone areas.
With an average of more than 8,000 wildfires per year between 2017 and 2020, with 2020 being the most destructive wildfire season yet, California ranks as the number one most wildfire-prone state in the U.S. As a result, more than one million Californians had their power shut off by their utility in 2020 as a preemptive measure to prevent further wildfires.
Jim Maselli, a resident and local hardware store owner in Petaluma, California, has lived through multiple Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) ‘Public Safety Power Shutoffs’ (PSPS) in recent years and grew tired of having his power cut off due to potential wildfires. Most importantly, Jim wanted to be able to power his well during a blackout so that he would not lose access to his water supply for days or weeks at a time. Jim sought a reliable and long-lasting source of backup power, but did not want to use a noisy, fuel-dependent generator, nor high maintenance lead-acid batteries.
“I wanted the ability to say I do not want to rely on my utility, PG&E, right now, or if PG&E decides to shut me off, I can choose to generate my own power regardless of what they decide.” - Jim Maselli, Petaluma, California Homeowner
After extensive research, Jim discovered Simply Solar, a solar-plus-storage installation company located in Petaluma with over two decades of experience. Having installed countless Blue Planet Energy systems with solar energy, Simply Solar readily recommended a solar energy system and the high cycle life, 15-year warrantied Blue Ion 2.0 energy storage solution to Jim.Since this energy storage system would be installed in his home, Jim wanted to ensure that it used the safest, most environmentally benign lithium-ion chemistry. Jim highly valued the fact that the Blue Ion 2.0 energy storage system uses lithium iron phosphate batteries, which are not prone to fire or thermal runaway.Jim’s solar-plus-storage system consists of one Blue Ion 2.0 for a total of 16 kWh of energy storage, 7.68 kW of solar power, one OutBack Radian GS8048 inverter, and two OutBack FM100 charge controllers. His system also includes preconfigured Blue Planet Energy and OpticsRE from OutBack Power remote control and monitoring. Although originally installed to just power a water well, this robust solar-plus-storage system powers all of Jim’s critical energy loads, including all of the lighting in his home as well as three refrigerators.
Ever since wildfire season began ahead of schedule in August 2020, Jim has read about multiple power outages impacting his community but has never experienced them directly. He has been able to seamlessly continue receiving water through his well during wildfire-induced outages and preventive PSPS events. Jim has also been able to provide a refuge for his neighbors during these events who have stopped by to charge their cell phones and laptops to keep in touch with loved ones and follow wildfire-related updates.Beyond providing reliable backup power, Jim’s solar energy plus energy storage system has enabled him to significantly reduce his monthly electric bills year-round. Since Jim decided to have his grid-tied system installed in 2020, he was also able to take advantage of the federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which allowed him to deduct 26 percent of the cost of installing the solar-plus-storage system from his federal taxes.Thanks to Simply Solar, solar power, and reliable, long-lasting Blue Ion 2.0 batteries, Jim now has twenty-four-seven energy during critical emergencies and preemptive wildfire power shutoffs while saving on his electric bill for decades to come.