Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Solar and the Colorado Floods
I grew up in Colorado, and as a small child experienced our basement flooding in '67. Even though I'm currently living hundreds of miles away, I've been incredibly impacted by witnessing what has been happening in my home state.
Climate change is implicated in Colorado's recent flooding - three climate-related factors have contributed to the event:
1. Very warm sea surface temperatures in the gulfs of California and Mexico, putting a record amount of moisture into the air.
2. The heat wave that immediately preceded the floods, intensifying the monsoon as climate models have predicted.
3. A blocking event related to a weakening of the jet stream related to arctic warming.
Colorado now joins Louisiana, Tennessee, New York, Minnesota, and Alberta the club of North American states and provinces affected by extreme rainfall events in recent years. Renewable energy, particularly solar, is a great way to reduce carbon emissions and the long-term risk of these storms getting even worse.
Some solar arrays were flooded by the storms - often, landowners have asked if they can build solar in FEMA's recently expanded 100-year floodplains. We'll be learning a lot about how these arrays fared, and the best ways solar arrays can be prepared for floods, in particular elevating electronics and inverters to prevent damage.
Solar can also help in the relief and recovery process. Colorado can take a page from Solar 1 New York's Solar Sandy Project which provided mobile power in areas experiencing long-term outages. Just look at this nifty folding solar trailer they used to provide power to people in the Rockaways: