Archive for rooftop solar

The Energy Of The Future Is Solar Power

Smart Energy in ArizonaNot so long ago, solar power was something of a dream for those who were ahead of the curve in the environmental movement. It appeared to be an option for the wealthy and for those who had committed themselves to environmentalism.

The idea that we could heat our homes and generate electricity from little more than sunshine seemed like a utopian ideal.

However, as the real and immediate effects of global warming are felt around the world in everything from droughts to mega-hurricanes, the implementation of solar power is now a feature of global policy and economics; it’s part of a combination of renewable energy sources which eliminate the use of fossil fuels that drive global warming.

Solar power has been steadily on the rise around the world, and as fossil fuels become increasingly scarce, we can expect to see solar power increasingly adopted.

Solar Power On The Rise

The surge in interest across the globe in solar power has largely been in response to the problem of carbon emissions and global warming. Solar power and other renewable sources of energy are the best ways to reduce carbon emissions and greenhouse gases.

As a direct result, global use and implementation of solar technology has been on a steady rise since the early 2000s. Solar is now the fastest rising source of renewable energy in the world, reaching about 1% of the total energy produced globally.

In fact, solar energy production now rivals nuclear power globally. Solar energy reached a capacity of about 350 GW (gigawatts) globally in 2015, compared to nuclear energy which topped out at 391 GW in the same year. In addition, it is predicted that at the current rate of conversion to solar energy, it will overtake the use of fossil fuels by 2050, with most of the globe running on energy produced by the sun.

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Crazy Utility Bookkeeping

Okay, here’s the thing. All over the USA, badly managed utilities with strong, well-financed political clout are doing their best to kill solar and other distributed energy systems. They claim that non-solar customers have to foot the bill for maintaining the grid that solar customers use at very little cost. Of course, this is completely false and ignores the financial benefits to utilities of grid-tied solar installations.

For example, I have a grid-tied 4.2 kW system on my roof. I received no subsides from anyone to install it. It’s my investment. As the “net metering” program now stands in Arizona, I’m saving around $600/year with my system. That nets me between 5 and 6% on my investment. That’s a good thing.

My little system also provides most of its electricity to the grid during peak energy demands – from 10 -4 each day. During that time, we use very little electricity, so most of it is flowing to the APS grid. There they can resell that electricity for anywhere between 6 cents to 26 cents per kilowatt hour for the time of use customers. That gives them a healthy profit because I’m giving them the electricity essentially for free. At the end of the year, if I’ve put more electricity into the grid, APS credits my account at less than 3 cents per kWh.

So, if I’m not paying the $20/month for the grid, APS is making more than that by selling the peak electricity I provide to them…free. Also, we residential and commercial solar owners help APS avoid the huge costs of increasing their power generation by building new plants to meet peak demands. That’s worth a lot to a utility. Of course, they do not share this with the utility commissions when they complain about the “costs of solar.”

Here’s an article about what’s going on in Nevada. You can bet that Arizona utilities are learning lessons from the anti-solar wins in their neighboring state.

Read Who Owns the Sun.

Here’s an overview about solar in Arizona.

Some Utilities Embrace Distributed Energy

Smart Energy in ArizonaThe growth of distributed energy generation — particularly in the form of solar energy — leaves the aging, monopolistic electric utility system a daunting choice: Come out swinging in defense of the status quo or boldly jump into the cockpit, put on the co-pilot’s hat and fly toward the clean energy future.

The second choice is not only the best option, it’s also a vital move toward curbing climate change, serving customers with fair prices and, most important for the folks calling the shots, keeping utility companies in business.

In order to stay competitive, utility companies, grid operators and the people who regulate them need to do what’s right for people and planet — incorporate renewable energy, storage and software to modernize the grid.

The momentum for renewable energy builds as prices fall and emissions regulations tighten. Supporting this trend doesn’t stop at pro-solar policies. Innovating to keep up with the technology is essential for both wider adoption of renewables and a better, more resilient grid.

Breaking the common solar-versus-utility narrative, some utility companies are not only accepting the idea of a clean energy future — they’re ushering it in. For those who aren’t, the consequences will continue to grow. The question for utilities is, will they be leaders or laggards.

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