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By Kiki Skagen Munshi, Julian

November 26, 2020 (Julian) – Regarding your article, SDG&E warns 2,700 customers of potential public power shutoffs after Thanksgiving: The real story is why SDG&E is doing this when the Santa Ana Wind Threat Index (SAWTI) forecast is only for “Moderate” fire danger in San Diego County and only for Friday.  This is a pattern that has become almost normal with SDG&E, threatening to shut off power the conditions aren’t very bad.  It was annoying in summer but it’s now winter and cold….and not all of us have wood stoves.

SDG&E is apparently giving away generators in the Back Country.  At a reported $4-6 an hour to run and highly polluting, this is not an answer for most people.  If they really cared, they would subsidize solar systems with batteries so people could go off the grid entirely and not have power lines that might cause fires.

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Yes solar power can be used to pump water from wells or water tanks when SDG&E cuts power to east county. Highly efficient submersible pumps like the Grundfos SQF series can run directly off of solar panels or a 110 volt generator. It is best to store the water in a tank on higher ground and gravity feed to lower ground so no power needed when no sun is shining. It only takes a few solar panels to run the pump and more panels can be added later. Solar panels are inexpensive now and sometimes these narrow pumps can be installed in the same well that has an existing pump installed.

Why Not Design Solar So It Works When Grid Is Down?

Home solar systems are locked into the grid. Any excess goes into the grid and credits are earned. However, when the grid is down, solar doesn't work. Why can't solar be designed to work when the grid is down? Any excess generated electricity could go into the ground just as with lightening rods. Something as simple as some type of switch that recognizes when the grid is down should work. I've spoken with several more knowledgeable than I am and they agree. Batteries are extremely expensive.

This is a very good idea

Kiki Skagen Munshi's suggestion that SDGE make an investment in solar for the Julian area is a great one. The largest recurring cost with off grid solar is battery replacement, and as individual home owners it is difficult to get past this choke point. But with economy of scale, batteries make sense. (See also the microgrid in Borrego Springs.) Some combination of very local microgrids and battery leasing/replacement for more dispersed homes could make sense if there was a utility willing to transition from energy production and transmission to maintaining smaller community microgrid infrastructures, and leasing lithium. It may look a little more like the propane industry in terms of being service forward, replacing/recycling/refurbishing battery packs. But it is plausible and SDGE should get into that business. If anyone disagrees with me, look up Elon Musk's Gigafactory in Nevada and ask yourself if lithium battery production and reconditioning is not a key to our solar future. Julian would be a great place to experiment with this transition, with fire safety as the really good reason to start the process HERE.