PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – Firefighters like to be prepared and plan for every outcome, and that’s why the newest addition to Fire Station 1’s roof is exciting for them.
Portland Fire & Rescue has flipped the switch at Station 1, bringing a new energy system online this week.
It’s a solar array that feeds a 30-kilowatt battery, meaning in the worst of scenarios, Station 1 could be the only fire station in the city with a continuous power supply.
Most commercial solar applications only work when the sun is shining, but with the addition of a battery, that energy can be saved.
“Up until recently, it was hard to pull off, but given the cost of battery technology and the controls have come down significantly,” said Danny Grady, senior energy specialist with city of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.
A refrigerator-sized battery stores the energy from the solar panels, providing three to four hours of critical systems electricity.
It might not sound like a lot, but in a disaster that time could be vital.
“All of our fire stations have the capability to function in case of a loss of power in the grid. We have generators at each of those situations, but of course they all require fuel. This definitely allows this fire station to be independent of that,” said PF&R Lt. Rich Chatman.
While solar here will supplement a generator most of the time, if that generator can’t be refueled, Station 1 can still keep going.
“It’ll lengthen the amount of time that we have generator power before we run out of fuel, and ideally, they’ll have the lights back on before that happens but if we were to use all the fuel in the generator, then the solar panels can continue to fuel the battery and continue to have limited operation indefinitely,” said Grady. “In a weird way, I’m kind of excited to see the next time the power goes down so we can see the system truly shine. I don’t really wish for an extended outage, just a couple minutes just to be sure.”
PF&R tries to plan for each station’s role in citywide disaster scenarios, like a major earthquake.
If an event was strong enough to knock out the power grid for more than a few days, they say it’s likely their ability to maintain a steady flow of diesel fuel for dozens of generators would likely have been hindered too, so this backup to the backup could really make a difference.
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