The increasing prevalence of rolling blackouts across Canada has commonly been attributed to the adoption of large-scale renewable technologies. In actuality, renewable energy protects consumers from power outages. The real culprit for rolling blackouts is threefold; extreme weather events, exploding electricity demand, and an aging electrical grid.
Canada’s electrical grids have begun to show signs of their age. The nature of electricity production has also changed dramatically over the last two decades, posing operational challenges for centrally designed, traditional grid systems.
Traditional systems favor the one-way transmission of power from a limited number of production plants, after which it’s widely distributed. To meet fluctuating electricity demands, varying amounts of fossil fuels must be burned at any given time. The astonishing pace of technological innovation worldwide has revolutionized economies, significantly increasing energy demand. This has caused major strain for electrical grids, especially during peak electricity hours.
Canada’s grid vulnerabilities to unusual weather events, which, due to climate change, are increasing in frequency and intensity. These significantly contribute to the increase in blackouts.
When centralized grid systems are damaged from a weather-related incident, massive numbers lose power. This is primarily due to the mass deployment of long-distance transmission lines. Decentralized production, relying more heavily on micro-grids and other renewable community projects, provides local energy resilience.
Toronto, for example, has seen numerous and significant blackouts in the last five years. In March of 2015, 250,000 Toronto residents lost power after a freezing rain storm caused 50 of the city’s transmission poles to catch fire. Throughout 2017, Canada experienced just shy of 400 blackouts, costing millions of dollars.
Solar technology can help offset the burden on Canada’s grid systems caused by extreme weather events and increased electricity demand. They do so by feeding additional, locally produced power into the grid during peak usage hours.
Homeowners and businesses with solar installations can also be self-reliant during blackouts, enjoying the luxury of electricity. Those with battery storage can save power during the day for use at night.
Battery development will also play an important role in the future of grid systems as intermittent energy sources proliferate. Overall, these changes will help to provide “reliable, high-quality digital-grade power, increased electricity-related services, and an improved environment.”