Is battery backup a viable option in a grid failure?

Several chapters in The Doomsday Book talk about power grid failures, because there are multiple ways for the grid to fail, including:

  • Coronal Mass Ejections
  • Terrorist attacks
  • EMP attacks by foreign countries
  • Bad weather, like hurricanes

Hardening the grid against these problems can limit the duration of grid failures, but we will probably never have a grid with 100% uptime. I have personally been in a grid failure, caused by a hurricane, that lasted a week, and one caused by an ice storm that lasted several days.

What are the options for people when the grid fails. It is possible, with enough money, to create a whole-house backup system that can provide power for a long time. A large generator running on natural gas or propane can do it. So can a big battery bank with a large solar array.

The problem is that whole-house can mean a lot of power. Things like air conditioning, deep well pumps, electric hot water heaters, refrigerators, freezers, and electric car recharging require lots of power. You might need a 20 kw generator to handle the entire load of a typical suburban home. A battery bank need 100 kilowatt-hours of capacity plus a huge inverter to handle the full load of a house for any reasonable period of time. Both options get expensive.

This is why the book advocates a much smaller approach, understanding that if the goal is to provide only the essentials, the equipment needs are radically smaller and therefore affordable. For example, Keeping an internet modem plus router up, along with the ability to recharge devices like laptops and phones, takes relatively little power. Building a backup system to supply just these needs costs a few hundred dollars. The size of the battery is a few kilowatt hours and the inverter is small. A single solar panel could extend the duration significantly, perhaps indefinitely. At this low price point, every home or apartment could have this facility and then, in the case of a power grid failure, everyone would be able to communicate and use the internet.

This article talks about some of the issues with trying to build a whole-house system, rather than a small targeted system for backup power:

The Myth of Whole-Home Battery Backup

Lots of insights in here about backup power.

The Doomsday Book” by Marshall Brain lays out this scenario in amazing detail and offers solutions to prevent this doomsday scenario from unfolding. You can order the book today on Amazon and other retailers.

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