Cloudy With a Chance of Blackouts: Island-Wide Outage on Kaua’i, Clouds Block Solar Recovery After Generator’s Cable Failure

Looks like adding solar to the grid isn’t helping in Hawaii, after a blackout caused by a severed electric cable caused the natural gas generator to go offline.

According to the Honolulu Star Advertiser, 10,000 Kauai residents from Kekaha to Princeville dealt with rolling electric outages between 6 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, and utility officials asked everyone to reduce energy use after Sunday’s islandwide power outage.

“Rolling blackouts were needed Sunday and today because other electricity-generating units were out of service for either repair or scheduled maintenance, officials said. Electricity customers experienced 30-minute outages every three to four hours during the rolling blackouts, which are expected to last until 11:00 p.m., and possibly Tuesday morning.

The lack of sun today was a real challenge, as we had virtually no production from our large solar facilities,” said KIUC President and Chief Executive David Bissell. “On top of that, we have increased demand from residential and commercial rooftop solar customers whose systems aren’t producing.” [emphasis added]

Company officials say they hope that the rolling blackouts will no longer be need after Tuesday. “However, logistic or mechanical issues combined with continued expected cloudy weather could cause an extension of the blackouts,” they said in a news release.”

This is why those who argue that that wind and solar will increase the resiliency of the grid are wrong. Wind and solar can help in the event of a power outage, but it is also very possible that they will not because they rely upon the cooperation of the weather. If it’s too cloudy, solar panels aren’t any good. If it’s not windy, no electricity.

Are you willing to roll the dice on intermittent forms of electricity in a blackout? Personally, I’d rather have a diesel generator.