How Residential Solar Will Save Lives in the Inter-mountain West

Solar Emergency Preparedness
solar panels and emergency backup

The Inter-mountain west has citizens sharper than most, but they are still oblivious to a fault–the fault right beneath their noses, feet, and homes. The fault whose tectonic plates have carved out a chasm into which dinner plates (and other more important things) will fall.

The Wasatch Fault in Utah is active, spanning 240 miles. It contains several segments, each capable of producing an earthquake hitting 7.5 magnitude on the Richter scale, which seismologists classify as the second most severe class of earthquake (Major). The consequences of earthquakes can be felt thousands of kilometers away, triggering a new set of earthquakes.

In Nevada, the chance of an earthquake in Reno is much higher than the U.S. average, 6.425 times more likely to have an earthquake, to be precise.

When earthquakes happen, the grid goes down. With solar and backup, you can power things in your home without the grid. And, if you own an electric vehicle, you can use it to power your car and get the heck out of dodge while everyone else is rushing to the overcrowded gas stations, as was the case with Hurricane Irma.  

How Solar Can Prepare The Inter-Mountain West for Earthquakes

Sustainability is not just about being green and cost-efficient. It’s about ensuring safety, continuing our standard of living, and equipping ourselves to contend with the forces of nature that are, unfortunately, beyond our control. Both Utah and Nevada are what geologists classify as basins. The energy from an earthquake in a basin reverberates the effects far and wide, making for cataclysmic destruction.

The Utah 2008 Natural Hazards Handbook lists natural disasters likely to happen in Utah. This list ranges from landslides and floods to radon gas and snow avalanches. Small earthquakes along the Wasatch fault are the most likely (and overdue) to occur. Both Utah and Nevada are overdue for some major earthquakes. Knowing the risks of your area will help you know how best to prepare for the worst.

Utah’s Overdue Fault Lines

The Wasatch fault has several segments that periodically go off. Some of these segments are long overdue for large quakes. For instance, the segment around Brigham city has a large rupture every 1,100 years. If you’re wondering whether it’s overdue, the Wasatch Fault Line last ruptured since 400 years before the birth of Jesus.

The Seismology Society of America has more frightening statistics for Utah. As of 2017, there is a 43 percent chance of the Wasatch front region experiencing a 6.75 earthquake. There is a 57% chance of at least one magnitude 6.0 earthquake in the next 50 years.

The Foreboding Silence of Nevada’s Earthquake Country

In 2014, News 4 did a segment on Nevada’s foreboding silence. For the past 100 years, Every 12.5 years there has been at least one magnitude 6 earthquake.

Small earthquakes still occur along the Nevada fault lines on a regular basis. None have come close to a magnitude of 6 since 1948. That is 70 years since the last big earthquake.

Other Nevada Natural Disasters to Consider

Plan Ahead Nevada states that wildfires earthquakes and extreme heat are major concerns for Nevadans. Due to desert conditions, fires and extreme heat are also common in Nevada. You may not have thought of earthquakes though, because Nevada hasn’t had a big one since 1948.

What Traditional Electricity Producers Lack in Terms of Disaster Prevention

Coal plants (which still supply the vast majority of American energy), function much differently than solar panels do during natural disasters.

They are usually shut down the moment there’s a natural disaster warning, or rendered inoperable in the event of a fault like eruption that affects its mechanisms. And, if the coal facility is damaged by the natural disaster, it will be shut down even longer once the rebuilding and cleanup process commences.

Without solar, you’ll need luck preventing that week’s batch of groceries from going bad in the fridge. Additionally, most of these coal plants rely on grid transposal to send energy to any disaster-affected areas, and these transposal conduits are frequently ruined in the grasp of a natural disaster.

This makes sending energy to affected areas from external power sources out of the question, therein opening up the floodgates for even more damage, confusion, and chaos.

Why Residential and Commercial Solar Panels Are Great Backup Tools

An unexpected hero for Utah and Nevada and the remainder of the Inter-mountain west exists in both residential solar and commercial solar for these areas. This is true for several reasons. One of the foremost byproducts of a natural disaster is a loss of electrical supply. And this doesn’t just apply to large-scale, grid-tied commercial systems; it applies to everyday residences as well.

Earthquakes don’t affect sunlight, though they can temporarily cause a cloud of debris. Earthquakes have the least impact on the part of the home farthest away from the root of the problem – the roof. This puts the panels in a position to absorb light and produce electricity when the ground erupts. The same logic holds true for a flood.

Although inclement weather is not conducive to optimal electricity generation from solar panels, the panels will still produce some energy, making them preferable over traditional energy generation methods in emergencies.

With solid racking, less to break, and increasingly sturdy engineering, contemporary solar arrays are incredibly damage-resistant. What’s more, these systems have no drips, fuel repositories, or combustion mechanisms. Their durability is a force to be reckoned with, much like the disasters nature dolls out in seemingly increased number.

If you feel many news stations and media moguls over-hype the many possible and “long overdue” natural disasters in America, you aren’t just wrong about whether they’ll occur, but also because of how ill-equipped most of us are to deal with these disasters when they strike.

That which is most common to all has the least care bestowed upon it. Power from the power company is pretty common, so people don’t regularly think about what they’d do without it. However, the pain of how things go without power is never made more evident than when natural disaster strikes.

In the event of a natural disaster, emergency preparedness is what sets those who live from the people who don’t. Food, water, and power are the ingredients for life when catastrophe strikes. 

Your home may not be in a livable condition after the disaster has occurred. If your home is intact, however, working solar panels make it a great designated safe house for the neighbors and friends you care about.


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