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Threat of Wildfires Causing Changes to Power Grid

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Jane Marsh's picture
Editor Environment.co

Jane Marsh is the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co. She covers topics related to climate policy, sustainability, renewable energy and more.

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  • Feb 23, 2021
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Recently, we’ve seen massive wildfires pop up from California to Australia. These situations have various potential triggers — but climate change and power grids are particularly notable causes. Could the solution be to switch to renewable resources? It seems like the best choice in the long run.

Here’s a look at how wildfires will likely influence future energy decisions.

What Usually Causes Wildfires?

There’s a little controversy surrounding how wildfires start. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation, so researchers have to consider each scenario on a case-by-case basis. However, you can typically link wildfires to climate change.

Consider how wildfires start. There first needs to be a proper environment. Due to increased temperatures and droughts from climate change, you can see how the right conditions are more prevalent than ever. Next, you need fuel to burn — and as warm air sticks around, you get “gas for the fire” via dry grasses and leaves. It only takes one spark to light up a forest.

What about power grids? It turns out that high-voltage lines and other components also spark wildfires, which leads to outages. Factors like conductor clashing and wildlife-related events can ignite distribution systems. These emergencies mostly occur in older networks.

There are other wildfire causes, ranging from lightning to campfires to smoking. However, you can see a link that connects climate change and power grids. If you switched to renewable energy, you’d be able to tackle both situations.

How Wildfires Impact the Power Grid

These events, whether through climate change or power grids, have many repercussions. There’s an impact on human and animal lives, which forces homeowners to prepare emergency supply lists that may not even protect them. It’s tough to ignore how much property damage wildfires can cause, as well.

Companies experience effects, too. These outages require time, money, and effort to address. There’s an additional need to institute blackouts as a way to manage the power supply. It’s evident wildfires have become a crucial threat that needs a solution.

Ways to Mitigate Wildfire Damage

How do you control and limit wildfires that damage power grids? There are a few solutions that might work, but in general, we need to choose renewable energy rather than fossil fuels. This change would allow us to mitigate climate change — and avoid power grid fires.

Currently, 80% of the U.S. energy supply comes from fossil fuels. There needs to be a more significant effort to transition to solar, wind, and geothermal alternatives. These systems create fewer carbon emissions, which reduces climate change. Plus, you wouldn’t have to be concerned about power grid fires because you can be completely independent when you use renewable energy.

Still, we can’t expect such a transition to happen overnight. Companies need to employ short-term solutions, too. Businesses now have to update facility designs, encourage legislative support, and control vegetation growth. There are calls to shut off the power supply in areas where climate change has increased wildfire conditions.

There’s an undeniable need for risk management, but we can’t expect such solutions to work forever. Techniques like new infrastructure can only help so much, as climate change will continue to exist. If we wish to eradicate damage from natural disasters, we should strive to fix climate change as much as possible.

Wildfires Make the Need for Renewable Energy Clearer

These emergencies call for immediate action. However, we can’t ignore long-term problems, either. There’s no denying climate change plays a role in how often wildfires and other disastrous weather events occur. If you think about power grids specifically, you should see that renewable energy could help.

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