From coast to coast, the last of our summer months were infiltrated with what felt like an endless cycle of natural disasters: Hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires. Following Hurricane Maria’s devastating path through Puerto Rico, the island’s 3.4 million residents remain without power for what is expected to be months. Over 40% of Florida’s residents faced power outages that could last weeks. With power considered a basic necessity in today’s modern world, solar energy has the potential to be a solution to these unexpected outages.
In the midst of these negative stories, media outlets across the country reported on residents and towns who used solar panels to power their homes and traffic lights when traditional alternatives became unavailable. The state of Florida used solar panels on traffic lights which allowed for the town of Coral Springs to ensure the roads remained safe without power. A resident in Gainesville powered his home the day after the hurricane passed through, even as the rest of the town remained without power.
Putting the question of changing weather patterns aside, stories like these demonstrate the role clean and solar energy has to offer as an alternative means of maintaining our modern conveniences and safety mechanisms in the wake of natural disasters that render power grids offline.
Here in Massachusetts, we have maintained status as the number one state in energy efficiency for the seventh year in a row and are constantly improving on the amount of renewable resources it uses to power businesses and homes across the state. However, the State has capped how many solar projects can benefit from net metering in each electric utility’s service area. These limits prevent more solar projects from being put into place across the Commonwealth, hindering the chance of increased reliability on renewable resources.
With the increased frequency of natural disasters and the publicity around new energies ability to support basic needs, the question now becomes, will we see an increase in support for alternative energy and a removal of net metering caps?
Solar developers and advocates have been pushing for increased caps, backing legislature in the state house and attending hearings to urge lawmakers to pass their bill. With mixed state and federal goals surrounding the importance of clean energy, the messaging around the energy debate will continue to be one that we see in the headlines. Stay tuned to SM& as we follow the environmental debate on Beacon Hill and in legislatures across the nation.