Preparing for Disaster Resiliency

By Rick Williams, PMP

Have you heard about the anticipated Magnitude 9 subduction zone earthquake, known as “The Cascadia Event”?The resulting earthquakes and tsunamis are predicted in the next 50 years threatening fuel and energy supply. The regional fuel supply (The Hub) in Northeast Portland is vulnerable to earthquake-induced liquefaction and landslides. Extended outages of the bulk electric grid and critical shortages of fuel are anticipated.

But wait! 84 MW of solar PV is installed in Oregon; and, many of us have solar PV installations on our homes. Solar PV can provide electrical power independent of the grid and fuel, right? Not so fast, many of the installed solar PV inverters will shut down because of conventional safety precautions for “anti-islanding” and lineman safety. Safety first – and – safe alternatives now exist to allow solar PV to operate independent of the grid – safely!

A recent workshop of 42 multi-disciplinary members explored the concept of “Disaster-Resilient Solar PV” co-sponsored by Solar Oregon and OSEIA. The findings were that most solar PV installations in the region will not operate during a grid-outage. Also, disaster-resilient inverters are required in Japan – and have been in use for many years.And, disaster-resilient inverters exist for the US market that meet code.

  • Safety is paramount (acknowledge “anti-islanding” precautions).
  • “Black-start” capability is essential in a grid outage.
  • Fuel-independence is crucial, given the vulnerability of Portland’s “Fuel Hub”, and the projected scarcity of liquid fuels.
  • Storage is a pivotal capability in a micro-grid.
  • Residential solar PV was the catalyst.
  • The most-promising opportunities are at the community-level.

Work on the topic continues, including testimony to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council on “Grid Reliability and the Public Benefit Case for Disaster-Resilient Power”. The Workshop Leader, Rick Williams, will share progress being made at Oregon Solar Energy Conference in May.


Volunteers are sought to assist with development of grant proposals for Disaster-Resilient Community Micro Grids. Contact Rick for more details:

For more information: Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) article “Unprepared” and application “Aftershock” at: and