• Increasingly, fires in California are becoming a real and present danger to homeowners in all areas of the state. In 2018 alone, there were 53,083 fires across the state, which included the Carr Fire, now the largest fire in California history. As a result of this, utilities across the state have become increasingly cautious about where they are sending power to during these fires, or periods of high winds, and have therefore implemented electricity blackouts in areas that they see as a danger during the fires, sometimes for up to a week at a time. Now, homeowners who experienced these blackouts are turning to solar + storage in order to keep their power on and survive in these increasingly long blackouts.

    In a first last year, to help control the spread of fires, Bay Area utility PGE shut down power to 60,000 of its customers. Now, a year later, PGE has filed for bankruptcy due to the lawsuits against the company that found their power lines were responsible for many of the fires, due to high winds breaking power lines. So in order to protect themselves from further lawsuits, PGE has alerted it’s 5.3 million customers that they should expect more of those shutdowns, and that they could repeatedly lose electric service in the future if their area is deemed to be a fire danger due to high winds. So now, homeowners in those areas are starting to look towards solar and storage as a backup power source for when these blackouts occur.

    It’s not just PGE that’s been shutting off power either. Last year, SDGE cut off power to around 30,000 homeowners in Ramona on November 11 due to fire danger, which included both residents and businesses. In 2017, SCE cut off power to several thousand customers for around 33 hours for the same reason. As the utilities are seeing the tremendous liabilities involved with keeping the lights on in these fire danger periods, PGE, SCE, and SDGE submitted plans in February that stated that they will consider an increase in power-line shut offs this year. So if you think you’re safe here in Southern California, you’re sadly mistaken.

  • A great example of this is a homeowner in San Francisco who owns a winery in the Sierra Nevada Foothills. After learning this year that PGE could shut the power off to his winery if they deemed the fire hazard at a dangerous level, he realized he needed to install solar and battery storage. If his power were to go off during a grape harvest, he could lose the ability to process the fruit, which could ruin most of his product and put him out of business.

    Similarly, we have met homeowners who have absolutely have to keep their power on for health purposes. One of our own customers who lives in Escondido has a child with a disease that makes her unable to regulate her body temperature, and therefore during the Summer, the family has to keep the A/C running 24/7 or she could overheat and possibly die. In this case, a blackout could potentially kill the daughter, so ensuring a power source in those times is absolutely critical. This is just another example of how having solar with battery storage during these times can be lifesaving.

    So if you live in California, no matter in what utility, and you live in an area that could be considered a high fire risk, you should consider going solar. The likelihood that your electricity will be shut down during a high-wind period is high, and as the quantity of fires in California are increasing every year, is likely to get higher. The quicker you go solar, the longer you will be prepared, so that when that time comes, you will be ready for a blackout. You will keep your power on, and your television and whatever other appliances you need on, and will no longer be subject to the will of the utility. Contact us today to request a free quote.


  • About the Author

    Michael Powers


    Michael is one of the founding partners of Stellar Solar. In 2001, he helped launch The Home Depot’s national solar energy program which is now offering home solar through hundreds of stores in nearly a dozen states. He is a writer and marketing professional with over 30 years’ experience in the fields of energy, market intelligence and leadership training. He currently serves as treasurer and board member of Global Energy Network Institute (GENI), a San Diego-based non-governmental organization that advocates linking renewable energy resources around the world using electricity transmission.