Monday, May 20, 2013

Distributed Wind and Solar

Here’s some links to Distributed Generation(DG) articles to check out. The first, by Steve Pullins for smartgridnews , clear back in 2008, was among the first I that saw that pointed out DG was on a real growth trend (just not in Iowa). Anyway, Nationally, DG (he calls it Grid Divorce) grows at a rate of 33% a year. If the trend continues, He says   it will lead to 55 million U.S. meters (half of the nation) going off-grid by 2028.  How many utilities will survive if they lose half of their revenue?” 

A few years later, a lot of folks have identified this trend. Here’s a good one by David Roberts, “Solar panels could destroy U.S. utilities, according to U.S. utilities”.
A fun quote – “It’s worse than that, though. Solar power peaks at midday, which means it is strongest close to the point of highest electricity use — “peak load.” Problem is, providing power to meet peak load is where utilities make a huge chunk of their money. Peak power is the most expensive power. So when solar panels provide peak power, they aren’t just reducing demand, they’re reducing demand for the utilities’ most valuable product.”  Roberts, and others for that matter, spend a lot of time discussing ratepayer increases as a result of this, and initially that might be true, as utilities try to pass losses onto their customers from stranded assets. However, as the solar percentages increase ( in Germany for example) , the price of electricity plunges during the day,  supporting the quote above , but also pointing  to the fact that Germans may soon pay much less for electricity than their U.S. counterparts.  Oh, and German renewables are heavily locally owned. Dare we say WIN –WIN?  The takeaway, I think, is that legislators need need to set the right policy in place to minimize upfront consumer impacts (hint, I don't think they're doing that yet). Right now the utilities are building a bunch of generation facilities and transmission lines that we may just not need a few years down the road as DG starts to take over. Currently, our politicians are listening to utility pleas for "Business as Usual".     

Finally, we may want to root for a more distributed – diversified electrical grid, instead of the centralized model our utility friends keep telling us is only way to generate electricity. Check the video referenced in the link.  I’ll also throw in another link on this issue for you insatiable readers.       

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