Florida Representative Holly Raschein has sponsored a new bill in the Florida Legislature to fund a $10 million pilot program installing solar panels and energy storage at strategic public facilities to keep them up and running during critical events and natural disasters.

The program would start on July 1, and run for a single year. The Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) will administer and report on the outcomes, with potential expansion.

Rep. Raschein explains the purpose of HB1133:

As we’ve recently experienced first-hand with Hurricane Irma, there’s nothing more crucial in the wake of a disaster than power. Onsite solar energy storage systems are a forward-thinking solution to improving the security of energy supply at critical local facilities, Given that Florida is the Sunshine State, it only makes sense to tap into this resource when planning for stronger communities that are more resilient in recovering from a disaster.

The technical requirements of the systems are that the battery storage capacity can “supply at least 24 hours of backup power to the critical disaster resilience facility’s onsite electrical load, or at least 5 hours of the facility’s average daily usage.”

The pilot program will be authorized in facilities classified as a “Critical disaster resilience facility”. The bill goes on to define these as any structure “designated by appropriate authorities as a place of community refuge made available to provide temporary shelter and housing to citizens during any natural disaster or declared state of emergency.” Such as specific hospitals, assisted living facilities, and other public health facilities, Airports, ports, and other transportation facilities, and facilities needed for personnel and services related to emergency management, law enforcement, public safety, fire and rescue, and first responders.

In 2013-2014, more than 115 schools had 10kW of solar power installed as part of the state’s SunSmart E-Shelter Program. The systems were both education tools for teachers and students, and paired with energy storage as hurricane evacuation viable facilities on campuses.

After multiple hurricanes struck the state in 2004, legislation was put in place to motivate – and require some – gas stations to install gas generators.

Electrek’s Take

I wonder what percentage of buildings need to have energy storage in order to inoculate large parts of the grid from crashing. If state facilities start adding significant storage, and individuals start doing it, then commercial locations with high demands start doing it – and our cars start doing it – pretty soon we’re going to have a pretty nice power grid.

Florida’s broader support for solar could be a bit stronger, and the utilities really need get out of the pockets of the politicians – because the state, as a whole, is still lagging where it need not be. And while this $10 million makes for a great headline, that buys roughly 4.1MW of solar plus storage for 20,000,000 people. A direct hit from a Maria strength hurricane, and Florida is going to need a lot more than that.

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