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3 Ways Summer Heat Can Lead to Power Outages ― and How To Protect Your Business

As summertime ushers in a plethora of feel-good opportunities ― from adventure-filled vacations to long, lazy days of relaxation ― it can be easy to forget that the season also brings an elevated risk of power outages. Mother Nature clearly doesn’t take a summer vacation; in fact, she fuels a wide array of potentially devastating weather events, including triple-digit temperatures, hurricanes, monsoons, and thunderstorms.

When power goes out during the summer months, excessive heat is often the culprit. Not only is electric reliability threatened by high temperatures, but generation capacity and renewable energy can be significantly impacted, as well. Extreme heat means trouble for the nation’s electrical grid; at least 70 percent of transmission lines are more than 25 years old ― a problem that has sparked reliability concerns for years. Excessive temperatures even pose a major public health issue; for example, a recent study published in Environmental Science and Technology estimated that if a blackout occurred during a major heat wave in Phoenix, Arizona, it could kill close to 13,000 residents and require nearly 800,000 people to seek emergency medical care. 

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How Summer Heat Waves Affect Power Systems

During the summer, the demand on the electrical grid doubles, increasing the risk of unplanned outages as power companies struggle to keep up with consumer demand. But rising temperatures can also negatively impact backup batteries and renewable energy sources, critical resources that we may need to rely on in the wake of utility shortages. Consider three of the most common ways that summer heat waves lead to blackouts: 

1. Higher energy demand.

Not surprisingly, extreme heat events increase energy demand, in large part due to the heightened use of air conditioning systems. This spike strains the power grid, which can subsequently trigger outages or necessitate grid operators to initiate rolling blackouts in an effort to avoid a complete grid failure. Rising temperatures are also capable of impairing the efficiency of electrical generation and transmission processes. Further complicating matters, hot and dry conditions elevate the risk of wildfires, which can wreak havoc on electrical grid equipment such as power lines, circuit breakers, transmission lines and other infrastructure. These wildfires often spark power outages, which further aggravates the challenge of managing power across the grid.

2. Reduced battery and renewable efficiency.

Wind and solar also experience unique challenges amid rising temperatures. Although sunshine is obviously required for solar panels to generate electricity, extreme heat may actually diminish their output efficiency by as much as 25%. This is because high temperatures can negatively impact output voltage, which impairs the panels’ electricity production. Wind energy may also be affected when extreme temperatures are driven by high-pressure weather systems that create calm conditions and reduce wind power generation. Furthermore, renewable and conventional power plants tend to operate less efficiently under high temperatures. High heat also accelerates chemical reactions within battery storage systems such as lithium-ion, leading to faster degradation and reduced lifespan. Additionally, heat magnifies the risk of thermal runaway, which can result in battery failure.

3. Increasingly intense weather events.

Extreme weather events due to climate change are escalating not only in frequency but in duration and intensity, as well. In fact, 83% of reported major power outages between 2000 and 2021 were attributed to weather-related events, according to Climate Central. In addition, the average number of weather-related power outages has increased by almost 80% since 2011. As these events stress the nation’s aging electrical infrastructure, communities across the country will continue to be impacted. 

Extreme heat also impacts drought conditions, which can lead to reduced energy output since thermoelectric power, hydroelectric power, hydraulic power and biofuels all rely on water access. In addition, drought conditions and extreme heat pack a one-two punch for increasing the risk of wildfires, which frequently spark power outages.

Impact of Power Outages on IT SystemsStatistics
Companies taking more than a day to recover33%
Companies taking more than a week to recover10%
Time to reconfigure a networkUp to 48 hours
Time to re-enter lost dataDays or weeks
Companies going out of business within 18 months without a survival plan90%
Companies losing $20,000-$500,000 due to unplanned outages33%
Companies losing $500,000 to $2 million due to unplanned outages20%
Companies losing more than $2 million due to unplanned outages15%
*Information from Price Waterhouse and the U.S. Department of Energy

The Role of Climate Change on Power Systems

As average temperatures continue to rise due to climate change from burning fossil fuels, it is simultaneously increasing the frequency, duration and severity of heat waves. No corner of the U.S. is immune to the consequences of climate change; in fact, each region faces its own unique hazards, with every state having been impacted by billion-dollar weather disaster events. Climate.gov reported 28 weather and climate disasters in 2023 ― surpassing the previous record of 22 in 2020 ― with the effects totaling around $92.9 billion.

The nation’s energy system is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. In addition to rising temperatures and heat waves, grid operators must deal with cold and snow events, severe drought, intense rainfall, hurricanes and wildfires. Case in point: when a tree came in contact with electrical distribution lines in California in 2021, it sparked the largest wildfire in the state’s history, the Dixie Fire. While the effects of climate change vary from one region to another, they will continue to affect all areas of the U.S. Even more, when one part of the energy system is impacted, it can cascade to other parts of the system and other regions.

4 Ways You Can Prepare for Summer Power Outages

While it’s impossible to prevent summer heat waves, there are a number of preventive actions that will help ensure your business doesn’t fall prey to the perils of Mother Nature. 

  1. Deploy uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) ― A reliable UPS is the single best defense strategy to safeguard your business against unexpected power outages. If your facility isn’t already protected, it is crucial to determine the type of UPS you need, including how much capacity is required to support your business and the amount of battery backup needed to safely shut down your systems or switch to a backup generator. If you already have a solid power protection solution in place, make sure you are having it serviced and maintained on a regular basis.
  2. Update your disaster recovery plan ― If you have not yet compiled a disaster recovery strategy, now is the time. Also, be sure to update it on a regular basis. It is imperative that your employees know what to do in the event of an outage at work. Also be sure to keep an emergency kit accessible and stocked with water, first aid supplies, flashlights and other basic items. 
  3. Check your backup systems ― During a power failure, you need to know that your safety systems will perform as expected, including smoke alarms, sprinklers, illuminated exit signs and building generators; be sure to test systems monthly.
  4. Implement surge protection Surge protectors safeguard connected equipment from sudden changes in voltage. During a storm or power outage, the risk is especially high. Keep in mind that the cost of surge protection is far less than the hefty price tag associated with having to replace damaged computers or other sensitive electronic equipment.

Learn How Unified Power Can Help 

Clearly, summer heat waves pose a significant threat to the ongoing reliability of electric power ― but that doesn’t mean you have to get burned by scorching temperatures. Unified Power can help ensure that your business is in the optimal position to withstand the effects of Mother Nature year-round. As a premier national critical power service provider, we are proud of offer high-quality UPSs and generators, maintenance and repair services for all major manufacturers’ equipment, turnkey electrical solutions, DC plant services, battery solutions and services, and more. Contact us today for more information or to receive a quote.

Contact Unified Power for UPS Power Solutions. We provide immediate help for UPS failure and mission critical power services to help you keep your UPS in the best condition possible, preventing failures and unexpected downtime.
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