Solar panels provide pollution-free energy that delivers far-reaching benefits to people, the environment, the economy, and the electric grid. But unbelievably energy systems development is driven more by financial considerations than environmental ones. Resultantly, it leaves customers more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Sean Kennedy, a professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has reached this conclusion in his recent research.
California is a national leader in renewable energy development. It is also one of the most climate-challenged regions in the country, with threats from wildfires, heatwaves, and drought.
Most of the time solar development required private investment to supplement public spending. For the projects to be valuable investments, developers managed their financial risks by increasing the size of the projects. Large solar developers seek to build or acquire new projects to generate more profits, which in turn makes it easier to get low-cost loans. However, it overlooks the environmental risks that may make the system more vulnerable to climate extremes.
The result is an energy system characterized by a few very large generating stations linked to consumers over long transmission lines, rather than a more distributed system serving communities closer in proximity. That makes consumers vulnerable to an extreme weather event 1,000 miles away, Kennedy said. Over the above, utilities charge the customer for new transmission lines.
“It’s a precarious arrangement,” he said.
Whereas distributed solar with a battery storage system can revolutionize solar development in the shortest time period with minimal investment.
Below are some key benefits of rooftop solar / distributed solar over large scale/utility-scale solar projects/plants:
# Utility scale / Large Solar power plant requires a large parcel of valuable land. Whereas small/distributed solar systems can be installed almost anywhere. These are or could be placed on building rooftops, parking lots, corporate yards.
# With large-scale solar there is always the potential loss of open space, agricultural land and biological habitat, and displacement of sensitive species. Whereas in the case of distributed solar, additional development in the form of solar panels on parking lots, rooftops and other developed areas is minimal and often results in no impact.
# Large Solar Farms have to go through a myriad of regulations and clearances. There have also been many instances of lawsuits against solar thermal and solar PV plants in California by wildlife and environmental groups. On the other hand residential rooftop solar or solar carport little permitting work as compared to any large-scale solar plant.
# Distributed energy systems have the potential to supply electricity during grid outages and blackouts resulting from any out-of-hand situation. It decentralizes the grid, potentially safeguarding people in one region from other areas that are experiencing problems, like blackouts. Emerging technologies, including smart meters and small-scale battery storage systems, will enhance this value.
# Ancillary services to the grid, such as voltage control, demand-side management to smoother peaks in the load on the utility system, and improved power quality (e.g., batteries can smooth the variable output of a PV system)
# Distributed solar systems reduce the amount of energy lost in the generation, long-distance transmission, and distribution, which cost Americans about $21 billion in 2014. Plus, no requirement of a huge investment in the transmission system
# Reducing demand for energy from the grid, home, and business solar systems reduce the overall price of electricity, saving money for all customers. Utilities always trick you by arguing that big solar plants generate cheaper electricity but do remind them about the new transmission line cost/charge they took from you.
We should not outrightly discard the large-scale solar plants, they have their own importance but distributed Solar Energy will become more important as the costs of solar energy decline. Moreover, storing power – deploying batteries – will play a key role in the success of solar rooftops in the future, as consumers will not have to then rely on utilities for the supply of power.
Whatever is your reason, whether it is saving money on utility bills, security from unprecedented natural calamities, Solar + Storage is for you. Over the above, you don‘t have to go anywhere.
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