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Extended Power outages and a Tesla

Discussion in 'Blog Archive' started by Vexar, Jul 3, 2013.

  1. Vexar

    Vexar Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2012
    Messages:
    462
    Location:
    Plymouth, MN USA
    Livewire_GRE1.JPG

    Late in June of 2013, my neighborhood experienced a significant power outage from a vicious storm, lasting almost exactly two days for me, and longer for my neighbors. In total, over half a million customers were without power. As much of my neighborhood was buzzing with the sound of chainsaws and diesel generators, I quietly thought about my Tesla Model S, tucked neatly in its garage, away from falling trees and power lines. It had a full charge at the time of the outage. Would I make it through this? Of course, the car's named Livewire, it has spark!

    As it happens, I did. There was no panic, and at no juncture, did my wife and I use her sensible Ford Focus. We had a point to prove. Just a few days before the storm, I visited a dear colleague of mine at Great River Energy. At their facility in Maple Grove, MN, which is under 10 miles from my home in Plymouth, MN, they have a windmill and solar panels tied into their ChargePoint charging station. I was told "yeah, looks like you can use it whenever you want." Most of the time, one or two Chevrolet Volts (company cars) are plugged into the two stations, but they are becoming sensible about keeping them on the 110v trickle charge and leaving a stall open. Across from this charging station is a fashionable mall, complete with a theater. I knew I'd need to take care of some errands, and I wanted to make sure my wife could take me to the airport on Monday, which is 25+ miles away. So we plugged in, with no power at home, and went to see a movie. A couple hours later, we had an extra 40 miles of range, having enjoyed a movie about four magicians. Less the ten to get home, it was still a net positive of 20 miles.

    Where my wife works, there's a single 110v outlet that she can use. If the power had been out until Wednesday, as it was for some of my neighbors, we calculated that she would have been able to maintain the range on the car for her commute (while I was on my business trip), losing the usual daily vampire load.

    Having a Tesla was great. we had internet and could charge our mobile devices. With a Model S, we were able to "camp out" in the garage with music, lights, and air conditioning. Our neighbors probably were able to do the same with their incessant diesel generators, but I've come to realize that owning a Tesla means I think differently about energy. Sure, I had to drive to the grocery store to get some bags of ice, but none of my food spoiled. When my parents were young, their houses had ice boxes. It's not as intelligent as a refrigerator, but it does work pretty well. You need to be the smart one on where you put everything (ice on top, food below), and you also need to probably get a thermometer, but they are quite cheap.

    Power outages in the summer are different from ones in the winter. Summer outages tend to be more widespread, and not having a working furnace in the winter is scary. The good news is that you don't need to go very far to get ice, it is right out your window. Also, the vampire load on the Tesla will be a fair bit higher in the winter, and driving conditions will limit range.

    One thing I have learned from this experience is that I probably need to invest in a solar panel set at some point. It is good to have contingencies, like knowing where your nearest public charging station is, but having power in every circumstance is even smarter. Owning a Tesla means having a different experience when the power utilities are down.

    Livewire_GRE2.JPG
     
  2. Zythryn

    Zythryn MS 70D, MX 90D

    Joined:
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    1,660
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Very nice Vexar!
    Thanks for sharing your experiences during the power outage. Where many people would assume an EV as a weakness during a power outage, it really can be a strength, as you showed:)
     
  3. keys

    keys Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2013
    Messages:
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    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Great story and nicely written :). Indeed even I would sort of have doubts during a powerout. Solar is the way to go, free driving after you've paid back for it ;)!
     
  4. mpt

    mpt Electrics are back

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2008
    Messages:
    1,629
    Location:
    Warren, New Jersey, United States
    Thanks for sharing. Good advice; find where you might get power before the crunch!

    We survived a 14-day outage here by traveling light and charging at a local university that had power - thanks Rutgers! Even with one 240 mile EV and one 80 mile EV, that's a lot of trips to the grocery store.

    After 4-days without power, no hot water to wash in, the dreadful stink of gasoline from our standby 4kW generator and, having to queue to get that stinky stuff, the 'fun factor' started to wear thin.

    We invested in a whole-house generator for next time.

    If you do choose solar, make sure that you can get a solution that does run off-grid, most don't.
     
  5. Vexar

    Vexar Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2012
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    462
    Location:
    Plymouth, MN USA
    @mpt: good advice about solar being able to go off-grid, fortunately, Zythryn is local and I can lean on his expertise when that time comes.
    Strangely, Sears sold me some sort of water heater that is natural gas and has an electric start but works somehow without batteries or anything. I do not entirely know how it works, but we never lost our hot water. I didn't have to think about laundry, but I probably would have sucked it up and gone to a laundromat, although the number of times I've washed socks / underwear in a hotel sink because I mis-counted when I packed is an indication that I can wash and dry clothes the old fashioned way.
     
  6. constraint

    constraint Member

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2012
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    Location:
    Minnesota
    Lucky we didnt lose power during that storm (I live in maple grove), but many people i know had solar panels on their roof hoping to ride out the outage but were sadly without power for 20 hours. Most of the solar panels are tied to a grid tie inverter which means that when the grid goes down they lose power too. In order to have power in an outage using solar panels you have to have a battery bank and different wiring in your house (your house feeds off the inverter and not the grid). This of course is a more expensive option.
     
  7. DavidM

    DavidM P2624, Delivered

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2011
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    447
    Location:
    Florida
    Down here in Florida we can have some wicked weather in the summer. One nasty tropical storm and you can be out of power for one to three days. If power goes out you've got no AC. With 90 degree temps, and 95% humidity you'd have to leave the house after several hours. We're starting to look into backup natural gas generators. Maybe a smaller unit that can keep our smaller 1.5 ton AC unit running, along with the refrigerator, microwave, and some outlets and lighting, including the 110V outlet near our Model S.
     
  8. Aphysician

    Aphysician Member, Michigan Chapter

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    Location:
    Metro Detroit, MI
    Very nice Vexar... Just puts my imagination in overdrive about the possibilities when vehicle to grid solutions become available.
     
  9. GlennAlanBerry

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2012
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    Location:
    Parker, CO
    Nice story! As others have pointed out, with a standard, grid-tied solar PV system, when the main grid goes down, you also lose the PV system on your house. You will have to get a battery-backed system to avoid that. There has been talk of using old Tesla battery packs for that purpose some time in the future...
     
  10. No Tailpipe

    No Tailpipe Member

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2013
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    Location:
    Eden Prairie, MN
    As a fellow Minnesota neighbor thanks for the story. I wasn't impacted by the storm but your story got me to think about contingencies.

    Also, thanks for the CenterPoint charging station tip in Maple Grove. How cool is that...love the picture too. I'm going to take one just like it for my Facebook page.
     
  11. idoco

    idoco Member

    Joined:
    May 7, 2013
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    162
    Location:
    Outside Philly
    As others have mentioned grid tied systems go offline when the power goes out. You need to have a charge inverter that isolates your system from the grid (basically acts as a gen tran switch). Although battery backup is a nice feature, without batteries it will let the panels supply energy during the daylight hours.

    We have this system and have been very happy with it http://www.sma-america.com/en_US/products/off-grid-inverters.html (kept us going for the week power was out after Sandy).
     
  12. Lindsay

    Lindsay New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2014
    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Valencia
    Hi my name is Lindsay ,

    I am a student at College of the Canyons and part of the broadcast journalism department, and our local station Cougar News. I am saving up for a Tesla because they are amazing cars.

    My friend Leif and I are passionate about the environment and would like to do a story featuring a Tesla owner and see how it is affected your transportation, gas payments, and your carbon footprint.

    Our school is located in Santa Clarita but we are able to travel to anywhere in the L.A area.

    Here is our schools website.

    http://cougarnews.com/

    Please contact me ASAP if you are interested in being interviewed.

    I didn't know how to make a new blog post, so I apologize that I had to post on this.

    [email protected]

    Thank you ☺
     

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