Solar Power Could Help Florida Recover Faster from Future Hurricanes

The city of Coral Springs knew better than to trust South Floridians to actually stop at four-way stops.

The city had a solar-powered solution ready when Hurricane Irma wiped out power to as many much as 85 percent of South Florida’s traffic signals.

During Irma’s power outages, Coral Springs put up temporary, solar-powered traffic signals to avoid accidents and delays at some of its busiest intersections.

It’s an example that more communities need to follow.

By making better use of solar energy, the Sunshine State could get back to normal faster after storms strike.

The storm’s power outages shut down everything from traffic signals to air conditioners – allowing Florida’s unrelenting heat to add to our frustration as we waited for utility crews to fix tangled power lines.

Yet power outages and losing air conditioning are more than just a hurricane-season inconvenience.

Twelve patients from a Hollywood nursing home, where storm damage knocked out power to the air conditioning for three days, have died since Irma.

And after the storm, several people across the state died from generator fumes seeping into the homes they were trying to power.

But what if instead of gassing up generators after a storm or waiting for line repairs, we could flip a switch and stay energized with solar panels?

Some Florida residents who invested in the right solar equipment were able to ditch Florida’s disabled energy grid and use solar panels to keep air conditioners, refrigerators and WiFi working.

Beyond having solar panels just to heat their pools and trim electric bills, they have equipment such as solar battery storage and inverters that can keep generating household power when connections to power plants fail.

That kind of backup power supply is too costly an alternative for most households.

But it’s an example of the kind of innovations that our elected leaders should be exploring to help get public facilities up and running faster after power outages.

We need more solar-powered traffic signals for the next storm, because Hurricane Irma proved that South Florida drivers have yet to master the four-way stop.

And using solar-powered backup systems to reopen schools faster could help provide an air conditioned oasis for students who would otherwise be sitting in sweltering homes.

Florida voters in 2016 already signaled their support for solar energy by approving a constitutional amendment extending property tax exemptions for solar panels and other forms of alternative energy.

Now local and state leaders need to push for the Sunshine State to get more juice from its namesake.