The link between climate change and hurricanes has become clear in recent years. Hurricanes Irma, Maria, Harvey, Michael and Florence are all examples. Those storms were stronger and wetter because of a warmer ocean.
Florida gets hurricanes, but also a lot of sun. That’s why solar energy is becoming one of the most important tools in the fight against climate change, but also may prove essential after a hurricane hits.
At the end of 2017, Chief Meteorologist John Morales invited NBC 6 into his home to document the installation of solar panels on his roof. Recently, NBC 6 returned to his home to talk about how successful the switch to solar has been.
“During the course of those first twelve months in which I had my solar panels, I did not pay Florida Power & Light $3,000. I save $3,000 in power bills,” said Morales. “Not only am I powering my house, I’m powering my vehicle, too. I have an electric car and this car is running on sunshine.”
John showed us a mid-summer bill that went from $433 before solar, to $113 after solar. But during the cooler months when less energy is required, the savings are staggering.
He received a bill for $9.50.
“That says that you used zero electricity or maybe even produced more than you consumed and they’re just charging you for the hookup fee and some taxes,” said Morales.
While saving money is a real benefit, going solar has much bigger implications to the planet and to South Florida.
With more people generating off their rooftops, that will burn less fossil fuels and therefore we will inject less greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Therefore, it will slowdown the accelerating rate of global warning that’s been happening. Unfortunately, global warming has already been observed to have caused an increased amount of hurricanes, causing the strongest hurricanes to get stronger.
While solar is becoming more affordable and accessible to homeowners, it’s also gotten the attention of major corporations.
In Central Florida, Walt Disney World has joined the revolution. In 2019, they unveiled a new facility with half a million solar panels. It’s enough to power two of their four Orlando-area theme parks.
Solar will no doubt save Disney lots of money in the long run. But from an environmental perspective, the facility will help reduce Disney’s carbon emissions by tens of thousand of tons per year.
With or without climate change, hurricanes will happen and they will hit South Florida. But what if solar can help after landfall? South Miami Mayor Phillip Stoddard was faced with that very question.
“After Hurricane Irma, so many of my residents said, ‘Oh man, I’d get solar if I could use it after a hurricane,’ and the problem has been that without batteries, you can’t really get the maximum use out of solar when you power down,” said Stoddard.
Mayor Stoddard got batteries to add to the solar panels he installed five years ago and conducted an experiment.
“On a Friday afternoon, I went out and I turned off the utility power to the house, and for the next week we ran without utility power and I didn’t tell the family to be careful, conserve, don’t do this, don’t do that. I said do whatever you normally would do,” said Stoddard.
The experiment was a success. The mayor’s house ran like it would during any normal week. Full electricity, laundry air conditioning, and even his car was fully charged.
“You can back up the whole house with a generator, but there’s no noise, there’s no fumes, there’s no parts to break and you don’t have those fuel costs,” said Stoddard. “You’re not polluting the environment, you’re not annoying your neighbors with the racket, you’re not making tons of carbon pollution that’s going to destroy the planet.”
South Florida has what it takes to start moving rapidly to start moving rapidly towards 100% renewable energy. South Florida has the capacity to set the example and show the rest of the country and the rest of the world how Florida can lead the way on preventing climate disaster.