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Backup Power Solutions for Business: How Much is Needed in Hurricane Season?

Getting backup power solutions during hurricane season power outages

A business that invests in backup power solutions can protect against lost revenue, reduced productivity and dissatisfied customers. That’s not coming from a backup power generator manufacturer, either. That’s according to the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, the largest municipal water and electric power utility in the U.S.

While hurricane season in California is mild compared with states on the East Coast and along the Gulf of Mexico, California ranks third among states with the most power outages, behind Texas and Michigan. Data from Climate Central, a nonprofit group of scientists and journalists who study climate, shows 80% of major U.S. power outages from 2000 to 2023 were related to weather. The causes of those outages include severe weather (58%), winter storms (23%) and tropical cyclones, including hurricanes (14%).

(If you really love data, you can download Department of Energy summaries of U.S. power outages by year.)

When power supplied by utilities goes out, businesses can benefit with backup power solutions,No matter a power outage’s cause, the effects on businesses are the same: The longer businesses go without power, the less money they have. Power outages from hurricane-force winds, like those that knocked out power to 1 million Houston homes and businesses in May, can last weeks.

“The best way to ensure consistent electrical access is with on-site backup generation or with renewables and battery storage,” NRG Energy Inc. states on its website. The Houston-based energy company serves 7.5 million customers in 24 states, many of which are in hurricane zones. “Whether you’re in a residential home or running a business with refrigeration or other critical energy needs, backup energy can be comforting, property protecting and lifesaving.”

Investing in a backup power solution for your business is just one step toward hurricane preparedness.

Backup Power Solutions for Business. Consider This.

What kind? To select the best backup power solution for any business, you need to know whether the business can tolerate a power interruption … and for how long. Your answers will determine your need for emergency power or standby power.

If your business can’t tolerate even a single second without power, it needs critical power: an uninterruptable power supply (UPS). Businesses and organizations that require a UPS typically are involved in health care, IT, banking, emergency response or government. Without power for even one second, lives or national security would be at risk.

For most businesses, and especially small businesses, noncritical backup power is a better choice.

Emergency power systems turn on automatically within 10 seconds when the flow of power is interrupted. They must connect to a power source separate from the main power supply, which requires emergency power generation.

Standby power, on the other hand, requires manual activation and takes a while to kick in.

An uninterruptable power supply is the right choice when a business can't go without power for a single second.UPS and emergency power require a backup power source separate from the main power supply; standby power can have a separate power supply, although it’s not required, according to Salt River Project. SRP is a community-based nonprofit that provides affordable water and power to more than 2 million people in central Arizona. The area doesn’t get hurricanes, but it does get power outages.

Temporary power is another option. It includes: portable, towable and industrial generators; solar panels that make sense in the most remote areas that have little access to fuel for generators; and power banks, which are basically big batteries that can switch the output loads back and forth from themselves to generators for reduced noise and emissions. (Construction sites tend to use power banks for their flexibility and combination of generation and storage.)

SRP recommends business owners ask themselves the following questions to determine the best backup power solution. Specific requirements, of course, vary by location and jurisdiction. Always check with experts in your area to ensure safety, compliance and the best solution for your needs.

Critical Backup Power

  • What is the electrical load requirement (kW, volts, amps, etc.)?
  • How long will you need to use your UPS (10, 30, 60 minutes, etc.)?
  • If you’ll need minutes, consider a battery UPS.
    • Requires air-conditioned space for installation (72 F).
    • Requires exhaust fans to vent battery emissions and HAZMAT protection.
    • Should service UPS annually.
    • Should inspect batteries semi-annually and replace them every two to four years.
  • If you’ll need only seconds, consider a flywheel UPS.
    • Requires installation space cooler than 100 F.
    • Does not require exhaust fans or HAZMAT protection.
    • Should service UPS annually.
    • Should change flywheel bearings every three years.
    • Expect flywheel life cycle of about 20 years.

Noncritical Backup Power

  • What is the electrical load requirement (kW, volts, amps, etc.)?
  • Automatic or manual transfer switch?
  • Do you need full power (entire facility)?
    • If so, what is peak demand (high kW) over the past 12 months?
  • Or do you need priority power (only critical areas)?
    • If so, which areas/loads will result in business disruption if power is lost?

Temporary Power

  • Where will power generation device and fuel source be located?
  • Will it be on a trailer, or will it need to be unloaded?
  • How far will the generation device be from the building connection?
  • Consider installing a quick connection device.
  • Do you require different voltages? Do you need transformers, distribution panels, outlets?
  • Who knows how to operate the temporary power?
  • Fueling/refueling must be arranged.
  • Requires a certified electrician for a safe connection.
  • Requires safety and security measures — fencing, barricades, cable ramps, etc.

Backup Power Supply Options

Now that you’ve answered these questions, you probably have a rough idea of your business needs for backup power supply. The most common options are backup power generators and backup battery storage.

Backup Power Generators

Before you buy a backup power generator, you must determine your highest possible electricity usage — your “peak demand” — and research generators that have enough capacity to meet that demand. Reputable manufacturers and dealers offer online capacity calculators.

Then, you must factor in whether you’ll run your backup power generator for full power or priority power (see previous list of questions).

Generators require their own, dedicated fuel sources — usually gasoline, natural gas, propane or diesel. Your peak demand, generator capacity and intended use will determine fuel type, fuel quantity and fuel storage tank needs.

The amount of fuel required to power a commercial emergency generator for days or weeks demands on-site bulk fuel storage tanks. A tank should have enough capacity to supply demand and outlast fuel supply chain disruptions common after hurricanes and other weather events. NRG recommends businesses with emergency power systems keep enough fuel stored on-site to run their generators for at least one week.

Backup Battery Storage

What if you run a small business that isn’t saving lives or protecting national security? You simply want a small-scale solution, say, to back up important data or power a few devices. Lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries could be the right solution. They can also function as UPS.

Lithium-Ion Batteries

  • Can last three times longer than lead-acid batteries.
  • Smaller than lead-acid batteries and can take up 80% less floor space.
  • Expensive.
  • Difficult to recycle.

Lead-Acid Batteries

  • Common in emergency backup systems and have been used for decades.
  • Less expensive.
  • Bulky.
  • Take longer to charge than lithium-ion.


Multiple electric power utilities, business owners and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce agree: Commercial backup power generators help businesses survive power outages.

“Have a commercial generator and know how to use it,” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation tells business owners on its website. “Know how long it will last when it’s full. Have a backup supply of fuel ready. Test it every six months to ensure it’s ready to work for you and run it with a ‘full load’ to make sure it meets your power needs.”

More Resources

Need Help? Ask the Experts

For help in choosing the right fuel storage tank for hurricane preparedness, backup power solutions or everyday operations, it makes sense to ask the experts.

Unity Fuel Solutions is North America’s leader in double walled storage tanks. For advice on the tank and system that’s right for you, call the Unity team at 800-234-1689.

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