Climate change has been a driving factor in California’s concerning wildfire seasons in the last several years. Each passing season seems to set a new record in devastation and damages, leaving many home and business owners wondering what can be done to curb the severity of the wildfires that have become an expected part of life.
While the state has been working hard to develop new laws on home construction, improve forestry management, bolster CalFire resources, and even help bury more miles of powerlines in high-risk areas, these may all be seen as only bandaids on a bigger problem -- each year, the fires will grow stronger and more severe than the solutions can keep up with.
So what’s the long-term solution to Northern California’s intense wildfire seasons that seem to last all year vs. just a season? Of course, the issue is multi-faceted, but a major contributor is climate change, and a major solution to that would be bolstering renewable and clean energy resources. There are many factors that need to be addressed for climate change to be impacted in a deeply positive way, but one small step homeowners can take is alternative energy sources.
California’s Problematic Power Lines
California has a naturally more dry and arid landscape, creating a natural fire season. But development of homes in wildland areas, increasing temperatures, and poorly maintained power lines have created a hazardous situation for many homeowners throughout Northern California, especially in Sonoma County (which is in extreme drought conditions). Recent major fires, such as the Camp, Getty, Kincade, and even Woolsey Fires were all found to have been caused in some way by faulty power lines or equipment. According to Governor Gavin Newsom’s wildfire task force, California’s wildfire season now lasts all year long, meaning there is now more strain on resources to combat these fires.
Even with power companies like PG&E trying to preempt fire risks by shutting down power, these blackouts often don’t always stop fires from happening, reports have found, but instead leave residents vulnerable and exposed to more risk. Sure, these lines could be buried in the ground and prevent such hazards from happening again, but the process is extremely expensive and time-consuming. For example, PG&E announced their plans to bury 10,000 miles of power lines in California (making up just 10% of their lines) -- an estimated cost of $15 to 30 billion.
Renewable Energy & Solar Power Are Part of the Solution
The movement towards renewable energy is one that is rooted in the mindset that moving away from our older system of power lines and power grids that rely on fossil fuels will help create a better future. Cleaner energy generation can have a major impact on our climate -- and thus the dramatic shifts it's taken in recent years with extreme heat and little to no rain to keep vegetation lush during long summers.
Solar power is one of the most accessible clean energy sources to the average homeowner. Solar panels can be installed fairly easily, giving a house its own independent source of power when paired with a solar battery for storage. As technology improves here, solar storage on a micro grid level could be the dramatic shift our current power line and grid system needs. Homes that have solar panels and batteries are equipped with one of the most resilient energy solutions available -- which is extremely important in high-risk fire areas. Unplanned power outages can result in serious risks for homeowners, businesses, and other facilities.
Not only can solar panels and newer solar grid systems help combat climate change with their clean energy, they could also help rid fire-prone areas of aging power lines that are a breeze away from sparking a fire. This double impact is the positive boost our climate and antiquated energy system could desperately use.
Solar Panels Provide Peace of Mind During Fire Season
Wildfires will likely continue to be a part of life in California for a long time. On top of that, it will naturally take time for any solutions to start having an impact on the current circumstances for residents. While immediate actions need to be taken, immediate results don’t often follow. That is why having a backup source of power is so important for Northern California residents. Being subject to blackouts is a serious safety risk -- not only do you lose all the natural and deserved comforts (AC, refrigerator, Netflix), but you also face a lack of communication, visibility, and more.
While the state continues to work out solutions to the long term wildfire problem, installing solar panels and a solar battery helps contribute to both the long-term and short-term solution. You can have peace of mind knowing that your home is backed up with clean energy stored onsite for you to access in emergency situations. Hopefully, someday in the future, a microgrid will be built to house all that renewable energy from your home and your neighbor’s home, helping reduce those carbon emissions and strain on the climate, returning California’s fire season to its natural state.