Also, peak demand in CA is at 9 pm, not noon:
The underlying problem is the mismatch between
the old business model:
Generate, distribute, and deliver electricity;
charge for connection to grid and for
electricity delivered and consumed.
Generate *or* purchase electricity from various providers,
including households with solar panels,
distribute and deliver electricity,
charge for distribution, delivery, availability,
and for electricity consumed.
Utilities are facing a similar disruption, and their challenges
include restructuring their generation / collection / distribution
system; the costing and billing to support that; the regulatory
and funding environment to cope with all of that; and to do it with
generating plant equipment that will have very long term costs. I wish them luck.
If I were in that business, I would be putting a lot of marketing dollars into retraining people that the value of availability and distribution is a good percentage of the costs that they incur today, so when a customer starts generating their own electrons, they already know there is value in being attached to the network, value that corresponds with continued revenue for the company.
I imagine the yearly peak might be earlier in the day, because it will occur on very hot days.
The time of day of the yearly peak is more important for capacity planning than the time of day of the daily peak.
"There's absolutely nothing to stop the existing utility companies being the companies that lead the charge with solar power."
Did you read the article? Energy infrastructure is amortized over THIRTY years. That means that they have huge liabilities until that equipment is payed off and chances are they have to upgrade it shortly after. Even pumping the solar companies full of government and investment dollars doesn't compare to all of the private equity that has gone into funding the existing infrastructure.
Of course this isn't the only reasonable perspective, but it certainly isn't false.
I believe that distributed energy is the future, plugging your house into your car, charging your car with solar and selling power to the grid when your forecasted household demand is lower then your forecasted supply.
Because of the internet we now have distributed information and it is changing the world in every way. Anyone can share anything in real-time with the world. Everyone is a producer and consumer of information now.
The impact of everyone being both a producer and consumer of energy will also be profound.
It's an eye-opening read for the most part and uses real-world figures for its estimates to show just what might and might not work in replacing fossil fuels around the world.
I wouldn't have been as interested in reading it myself if the Economist/Bill Gates hadn't given it their approval.
Entertaining, memorable and instructive.
It's a refreshing physicist's take in a field normally consumed with politics and hand waving.
And if you're talking about disconnecting from the grid entirely (I know you don't but the OP did), you suddenly have a high availability issue on your hands. That's never going to happen.
I think at the end of the day, solar will be operated by utilities. They don't have to buy all equipment on one day, so they can spread the risk. They have professional staff to fix and maintain things when they are broken.
I'm not sure the same thing is possible in power generation, because power plants, substations, and power lines are so much more expensive than telecomm switches.
What we need is the power equivalent to the fiber optic cable--a huge breakthrough in line capacity. The only thing that could compare is probably high-temp superconductivity.
Would you just grab the latest 0.1 release of the hot new database and throw it up on your production systems because everyone keeps talking about the promise of it? This is a real concern at the engineering levels.
One of the problems with distributed generation is not that it eats away at grid profits - there is still profit from maintaining the grid that allows you to have power even if your solar panels break. There are price structures that allow this to be profitable for utilities (however everyone involved needs to look at it with fresh eyes -- homeowners need to stop thinking about it in just profit from unused kwh and utilities need to stop looking at it in terms of kwh pushed). The problem is that huge and expensive amounts of infrastructure are designed an manufactured with a one-way power flow in mind. Protection schemes are predicated on a star(ish) topology of distribution lines, where the assumption that power flows from the "hub" out. Things like transformers are highly tuned for this type of flow, to the point where even small changes or running out of spec can seriously degrade the expected lifetime (usually thought out and planned on the time-frame of 30 years.) Power flowing the other way is a "break the line" event, period, to protect that equipment. A lot of substations don't have the type of capacity or equipment to handle power swings too far out of spec, because they designed that way for maximum efficience of the push model.
Something this article misses in it's analysis, is that power companies building infrastructure is absurdly expensive - getting right aways for power lines is a decade long, legally perilous, and highly prone to regulatory whim, endeavor (the NIMBY crowd is strong here). As such, once one is put in, the cost is amortized over 30+ year timelines, and efficient operation is actually strongly considered. Demand response and efficient appliances are actually in the interest of utilities, and they do recognize this. If they can't build new infrastructure to increase supply, they want demand to remain within their capability to deliver (and when done right, the base "connected" fee to the customers can be as or more profitable than more power to fewer customers).
Finally, all the understanding and models of how electricity works in an interconnected grid is based on models assuming "roughly" steady state capable generators. Things like solar and wind have some problems in this, as they can contribute instability to the overall system - if the wind dies, you have to have hot standby power to keep voltage levels up. If everyone in a region has PV, and clouds move in, they will be demanding more power from the grid. On a "partly sunny" day, this result in weird spikes, again placing strange wear patterns on transformers and generators that are ramping up and down in response.
Even the engineers I know who are all about this stuff are hesitant to just deploying it, because of all this technical challenge. Just like I would be hesitant to throw an unknown datastore into a stable working system without staging, testing, and otherwise slowly integrating it. It's even worse for the utilities, because they are in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" position. What is worse - rolling slowly with the new technology and being blasted as obstructionists, or going head first, and being blasted when the unexpected happens and breaks a bunch of things, or finding a middle ground and making everyone unhappy?
 at transmission levels, this isn't true, and in dense urban centers the topology is meshier, but this statement is still true for a (geographically anyway) majority of power distribution.
At an IEEE talk on this subject not long ago, the presenter said, "We've spent the last 100 years learning how to PREVENT the very type of electrical flow that distributed generation creates."
$HN_USERNAM @ gmail
If you want to chat tech and power.
Yes, please rapidly innovate my Facebook and NetFlix UIs, and even pipe those changes to me automatically. On the other hand, please methodically roll out changes to XCode and Django, and let me take them when I have time.
Netflix down? Oh well. Latest Django build breaks thousands of sites. No thank you.
Perhaps those green power policies aren't so poor after all.
This article is talking about using your solar power system to actually fulfill your complete power needs, without any grid.
I think the risk of people disconnecting from the grid is fairly low, since the necessary lead acid batteries cost thousands of dollars.
-Former utility employee
Residential customers payed a fixed rate to be connected, and every penny the utility collected for energy was remitted to the market operator.
The utility also made no money on energy by large users, but they were billed based on their own hourly use and the hourly price, and some also would have had demand charges.
It seems to me that the whole point is that consumers will begin the rollout themselves, generating and storing power on their own and the only visible effect to the utility would be a dramatic decrease in power use by that customer.
While having a grid where you could sell your unused energy is a great idea, I didn't see that as the focus of this article. I thought this article was simply about the distributed generation and storage.
In the context of distributed generation and storage on an individual level -- why do utility engineers matter? They don't get a say in the rollout, they don't manage it, and they certainly don't get to prevent it. All they can do is maintain their infrastructure in the face of a change they cannot stop.
However, there are interesting regulatory consequences here. Various levels of government have regulations in place that are designed to protect the consumer, but also put a strain on utilities. In a very large number of places, the power company is only allowed to charge a certain rate or less. This rate is partly based on building out the infrastructure for all houses, businesses, etc in the region, and assuming certain usage values. They are also required to make power available to anyone in those areas. They are also required to provide power under certain conditions, regardless of the customer paying (e.g. they can't shut off power in the winter in many places, because that could kill someone). The utility being constrained by the rules in these places must figure out how to operate profitably (being a publicly traded company in many cases) with these constraints. So, if suddenly everyone starts going off-grid, they are still required to sell at a certain rate or lower, still required to be able to provide power to everyone, and being told that they can't necessarily charge enough for that service, because a lot of people will just go off-grid.
It is a sticky situation, and until operating models and regulations can be worked out to account for wide-spread off grid people, it is kind of a catch-22 for everyone. I don't want my power to go out because the utility can't afford maintenance because they can't charge me what they need to for reliable service, because half of my neighbors are off-grid now.
Basically, the question is: if you were under regulation to act a certain way, and those regulations were based on assumptions, wouldn't you be against allowing behavior that breaks those assumptions without a change in your regulatory responsibility?
SolarCity will install a bank of Tesla Motors Li-ion batteries for grid backup and load shifting. This would be financed over the course of the loan (typically 20 years), not all at once. http://www.solarcity.com/residential/energy-storage.aspx
Check out this Hak5 rig of van with PV and batteries: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWmCpt2KXOs
From this, it is not hard to imagine if one scaled this setup one could be off the grid now.
There were several PV and battery setups there which worked pretty well. Obviously you need to be careful with the amount of power that you use, but it can run computers, TV and lighting with a reasonable setup.
There was a computer lab at one installation which had one desktop machine acting as a server and about 15 thin clients to keep the power usage low.
The only difference to them is that you draw less power than you used to. Sure, it would benefit them to learn your habits so they can manage steady power delivery at scale, but they don't get a say in your solar rollout. They don't get to prevent it. They don't get to be skeptical (or if they are, they can't act on it).
The person I'm replying to seemed to say that the engineers at utilities are skeptical of this technology and honestly I don't understand how they're relevant, since utilities aren't rolling out the technology, maintaining the technology, etc.
That is not the only difference; the pattern of your load changes too.
With 100% grid-supplied power, changes in load are driven by slow-moving, predictable systems like sunrise/sunset, weather, and seasons.
If you are running your own solar array, though, you will vary your grid load on much shorter time scales unless you invest in a big battery pack to smooth out the variations in insolation from clouds and storms. And even the normal daily variation will be stronger, since when it gets dark you'll not only be increasing your load (turning on lights, TV, cooking, etc), you'll also be losing your local generation.
The current electric grid is not built to handle such large changes in load on such short timeframes.
If you are running your own solar array, though, you will vary your grid load on much shorter time scales
I'm not so sure that these latter variations are significantly less predictable than what you mention in the former paragraph. Isn't the output of a solar array dependent on the insolation? Isn't the insolation dependent on the cloud cover? Can't you predict the cloud cover in any single place simply by taking advantage of real-time meteo satellite data? A similar feedback could be established for wind power. Given enough data, I'm reasonably certain that models could be established that would allow you to predict how the solar and wind power generation distribution is going to change in the next hour(s) so that you could prepare for it.
The issue is that the supply side and supporting infrastructure is built for an entirely different system where power leaves the power plants and goes through the grid to consumers. Now people are adding solar panels which generate a ton of electricity during the day (when everyone is largely at work/school) that must then be fed back into the grid, opposite the direction of normal flow.
Power is sold to the electric company at a much lower rate than the power that is bought from the electric company.
So you might buy power for 27c/kwh and sell it for 3c/kwh.
I figured what you generated went directly to your storage system, you drew from your storage system OR the grid, or some third part intelligently drew from the grid or your system as necessary.
Is it functionally impossible to have solar panels that don't "run the meter backwards?" Because I can see how that would threaten the infrastructure that wasn't designed for it.
I mean, I see places like Apple generating all their electricity on location for their new planned office and using the grid as backup. Is Apple sending their excess power back to the utility? Totally different scale, I'm well aware, but just curious.
In almost all grid-tied scenarios though, you want to sell the power back to the utility. I'm not familiar with commerical operations, as they would fall under power purchase agreements (PPAs), but with residential installations your meter quite literally does spin backwards or a separate meter is used to determine how much power you've sent back to the grid. This is dependent on how the utility compensates you for the power you generate (spin the meter back if its a credit or the same price as what your purchase it from them at, separate meter if the pricing paid to you is different than the retail rate).
As the article states, we don't have the issues in the US that Germany has yet, because Germany produces so much more solar energy than in the US. At some point though, questions will need to be answered about who is going to pay for the spinning capacity (likely natural gas generators) that isn't used except for those rare times when the wind isn't blowing, the sun isn't shinning, and you can't drag enough power in from another geographic region over HVDC transmission lines.
That doesn't sound like a bad problem to have.
Fukushima showed us how hard it is to turn a nuke on and off
quickly, but I would think most hydrocarbon burning and other generation systems could be throttled according to demand.
If you really have a problem with too much energy, well, smelt some aluminum or electrolyze water or something.
The poster isn't saying they're producing energy, just that they must be ready to do so at any time.
The cheapest storage battery is simple lead acid figure a quarter per watthour installed. Or a KWh is $250. But with a 100% charge/discharge cycle the battery will be dead and need replacing in about 10 or so cycles. To get up to 1000 or so cycles (which is only 3 yrs daily cycles) means you only get to use about 10% of the capacity. Lets round up because rectifier/inverter gear, and buildings, and operators and their stuff, are not free. So you can guess about $3/watt of storage as an absolute best case, but probably more realistically a turn key battery storage facility would cost more like $4 and would depreciate fully in about half a decade.
Hydro turnkey is about $1/watt plus or minus massive corruption (what is the dollar value of the hetch hetchy valley of yosemite national park, etc?) Coal plants sell turnkey for a bit over $2/watt, natgas is arguably the most expensive around $6/watt. All of those last like 50 years, so divide those costs by about 10 to compare with a battery bank that only lasts at best 5 years.
Spinning capacity (well, sorta, in case of natgas) is around 10 times cheaper per KWH than batteries. You have to remember that power companies don't really care about pushing an agenda, more or less. There is no conspiracy, they just want to sell KWH. If they could install a battery bank instead of a natgas peaking plant, and keep huge profits, they most certainly would.
There are some interesting math problems too. If each stored utility grade battery costs $2500/KHW and the total overall worldwide battery industry is about $50B, that means if we abandon all other forms of battery use in the world and get rid of all laptops, cellphones, etc, we could build nothing but lead acid batteries at a pitiful rate of ... drum roll ... 20 megawatt hours of utility grade storage per year. Now since the batteries are scrap in 5 years, that means if in a Manhattan style worldwide project we focus the entire industry on utility grade storage, we can never store more than 100 megawatt-hours worldwide. Which if you assume a daily charge discharge cycle is about 10 MW continuous or about the capacity of ONE small gas turbine system. So its not as simple as going down to "batteries plus" and picking up a battery large enough to UPS a nuke plant.
They chose Ni-Cad (presumably for good reason).
Edit: Some numbers:
It's about 5 megawatt hours (varies somewhat based on draw, could stretch it to 6.5 MW-h for 15 minute runtime, less at higher draws).
Cost $35 million, so ~$7000 per KW-h of capacity.
Planning authorized in 1993, online in 2003.
Expected battery life of 20 years (maybe 30).
So a project that didn't seem to take up the entire manufacturing capacity of the battery industry managed to bring up 0.5 megawatt hours per year, with a lifetime of 20 years, half of your prediction of capacity production capacity (but at much higher cost than you started from).
Instead we keep hearing the old "Wind and solar will never work because base load" garbage.
"An economically and ecologically more viable alternative to ‘spinning reserve’ – gas turbines kept running in case of an emergency – is battery back-up."
Of course its marketed as backup power right now, but once battery costs come down this will be very viable.
I'm not actually sure what it'd look like. Seems like there might be a tradeoff between hotter areas, which have both higher PV output and higher peak electricity usage (due to A/C running flat out on hot days), and cooler areas which are lower on both. I guess the ideal situation would be something like SoCal within a mile of the coast: tons of sun yet ocean-moderated mild temperatures. But not sure about the rest of the country.
The roof area of a 1200 sq ft ranch home is much larger than the surface area of solar panels needed to power the home. (in other words, your map would show pretty much all of north America). But covering all of a roof with solar panels is very expensive.
The biggest problem is that the "typical suburban home" is ridiculously inefficient.
In terms of bang for your buck, investing in efficiency improvements is a much better choice for the average home owner. Don't even consider solar panels until you've reduced energy needs first.
After efficiency upgrades, modern solar panels make a lot of sense financially speaking.
Absolutely, asynch13! That's what I did. It took over two years, starting with a home energy monitor.
Using a home energy monitor such as  or , one can get frequent measurements, every six seconds for , then identify individual loads by switching them on and off during a period of otherwise steady demand. Other loads silently switch on and off of course;
Then one can start making evaluations and upgrades. Some can be surprising; I was able to reduce my demand by well over 20 KWh / day; details here .
After that, a 5KW / 8000+ KWh-per-year grid-tie no-storage solar PV system went in. My utility charges $11 for a month when the PV system produces more than the home consumes during a billig period.
The utility did change out their transformer (to a smaller 25 KW unit feeding 3 other homes) on the power pole in my back yard. But home and location is 40 years old, so I can imagine the old transformer was fully amortized long ago.
* My utility (Los Angeles DWP) accumulates a 'dollar banking' credit for the present value of net energy [signed power flow integrated over the two-month interval of my utility's billing period] fed back to the grid when a billing statement period is net-energy-productive (i.e. the PV system made more energy than my home consumed over the statement-period of two months). I pay a $22 'minimum charge' (normalized: $11/mo) for, as I see it, my share of utility equipment amortization and operations I'd otherwise be paying as a consumer. Fair enough: I do draw energy when the sun goes down. It's co-operative.
* In the summer, my 5-ton A/C use exceeds my PV system's production capacity; I become an energy consumer during one or two billing periods. My utility calculates the price for the _net_ energy I use per period, then debits the 'dollar banking' account. If that gets exhausted, then I pay the residual, otherwise my 'dollar banking' balance just goes down.
i suppose its good to watch out for unnecessary power usage (like keeping the lights on all the time), but i will not want to give up any modern luxury to save a bit of power. For example, if its hot, i will turn on the AC, or heater if its cold, take long hot showers/baths etc.
What i want out of a solar panel is so i can spam electrical appliances all i want.
The falling prices of solar PV panels has been incredible. Most expected the price of $0.72 per peak watt to be reached in 2028, not 2013.
The energy efficiency of LEDs still doesn't beat CFL, except for really really expensive LEDs.
Not at all!
CFLs cost $1.74 per bulb with an efficacy of 64 lumens/watt . LEDs cost $12.47 per bulb with an efficacy of 84 lumens/watt .
As far as LED bulbs go, $10-$15 per bulb is a pretty typical price. A more correct phase is "The average LED is 30% more efficient than a CFL, but costs 7x more." Anyway, both halves of your statement are wrong.
The big savings comes in flexability. LED bulbs are easily dimmable. Dimmable CFL bulbs are expensive and don't work well. LEDs can be turned off and on quickly without wearing them out. I go through a lot of CFLs in my basement, because the lights are turned on for three minutes at a time, several times a day. They actually burn out faster than the incandscents! Though in most cases it does not make sense to replace CFLs with LEDs yet.
Eventually it will, see Haizt's Law . CFL tech has been improving too but not as fast. In 1980 florescent tech was at 34 lum/watt. Doubling every 30 years is a dead end.
Congratulations: You found an example of a really really expensive LED - which is exactly what I said.
And I've seen this LED before - it's the very first one I've ever seen that beats a CFL for efficiency, and it does it by having a CRI of 80 (the legal minimum). So the color advantage LEDs have over CFL? Not for this bulb - this bulb looks terrible, so bad that it's going to turn people off from LEDs, the same way the early bad CFLs made people think they are all bad.
How exactly are you saving anything from flexibility? Who cares if they are dimmable, the majority of the time you don't, and the tiny savings in electricity when you do hardly matter.
I turn my CFLs on and off quite often and I go years between having to replace them. And they cost 74 cents - replacing them is hardly an expensive proposition even when they fail (which they usually don't).
Check the efficiency of LEDs that cost no more than $5 (still 6x the price of a CFL, but reasonable) for around 800 lumens, if you find one that beats - or even matches - a CFL let me know. And make sure the CRI is comparable too. A low CRI CFL is also much more efficient.
Haizt's Law has nothing to do with efficiency. Also, the theoretical max for efficiency is 250 lm/w. It's going to get much much harder to improve things as we get closer.
I agree that eventually LEDs will beat other technology. It's just not there yet.
Sorry, what? The linked four pack of CFLs costs $6.97. You must have been doing some very interesting taxes this week if you think 6.97 / 4 = 0.74. (Apologies if you are not American.)
> Check the efficiency of [800 lumen] LEDs that cost no more than $5
They don't exist. Even cheap direct-from-China LED bulbs* are more expensive than that. $10-$15 per bulb is the typical cost and you'll be hard pressed to find 800 lumen (60 watt equivalents) for any less. I'll gladly check their efficiency if you can show me where to get that many lumens for that price.
* Actual lumens. Many Chinese reseller sites will outright lie and you need to check the manufacture's website. Eg, http://dx.com/p/193927 says 1008 lumens while http://www.sencart.net/e27-24smd-5060-led-pure-white-lights-... says 700 lumens.
That is very very interesting, for me the price is listed as $2.97. I can post a screenshot if you like.
I'm wondering if it might be because there are utility rebates in my area, and my local store has a lower price.
> They don't exist.
I figured. I don't think the time for LED replacement bulbs has come yet, but we're getting there.
Although I am considering this fixture http://www.ebay.com/itm/170922117326 for a new installation because once I include the costs of the hardware the price is a wash, and LEDs are much better for outdoor use.
I do hope they are not lying about the lumens though.
I think LED specific fixtures are going to be a much better choice for now, rather than edison base bulbs.
We'll just use less coal which is a great thing, until the coal industry starts getting subsidies to stay alive in a few decades (which is certainly going to happen considering their political power).
Grid-tie is a much better answer for people and utilities though. Solves the daytime demand problem.
-A former utility employee
They are more expensive than natural gas backup if you buy them new at retail. But these things get un-useful in an industrial setting quite regularly while still retaining quite a bit of utility for people who just want medium term household energy storage.
Would it be practical for EVERYONE to buy these things up used? Not a chance. But if you just want to set yourself up nicely look around. They go for a few hundred used as that's all the recyclers will pay for them.
EDIT: I wasn't thinking of them in comparison to natural gas backup until you brought it up. When 10kW of solar cells cost $10k and a 5kW inverter costs another $3k-$5k the idea of paying another $5k to put in a rather large-sized battery doesn't seem all that out of place to me. But you're right that a small natural gas generator would win re: batteries.
Is that your take on it?
You are correct that they require maintenance. Thankfully that involves topping off water levels periodically. http://www.giantbatteryco.com/gbweb/ProperBatteryCare.html
They might not deliver quite as happily to a residence as to a business as the battery would likely be located in a less-than-warehouse type location. But it's definitely worth a try!
Forget practical - it wouldn't even be possible. There isn't enough lead on earth for that.
(But then, Europe is not too humid.. nobody uses private air conditioning.)
If you claim more energy is spent on heating overall I'd want a reference on that, since that goes against what I've heard. Especially since houses in cold climates tend to be a lot better insulated than houses in southern climates.
Probably the simplest reference I could give would be to point out that a lot of heavily populated places like Seattle, Chicago, the US Northeast, and much of Europe don't even install central air conditioning in homes at all. If we're talking about human survival standards of comfort, then obviously people have been living closer to the equator than you and I for a long time before AC was invented.
In the winter, often a furnace is used to burn gas or electricity in a pure "burning" of utility energy to heat. Some people have heat pumps which are more efficient, but when they hit their limits the backup furnace kicks in. Often additional water must be added to the inside air, and that must be heated as well. The temperature differential which must be maintained by the burning fuel is easily 40 deg F (say 28 to 68 on a mild day).
In the summertime, reasonable cooling involves using a refrigeration process to move heat out of the building. The refrigeration cycle isn't perfect, but it's surprisingly efficient since it's more moving the heat from one place to another. As a side effect, the inside air gets dehumidified which helps too. The summer cooling temperature difference is only 25 degrees F (say 98 to 75) on a hot day.
On the other hand geothermal is free for the most part (to use, not installation of course).
In 2009, space heating was 40% of US home energy use, air conditioning was 6%.
We should be subsidizing geothermal installations because of how damn efficient it is compared to trying to push heat into the air.
As for the business model, Heinlein has a comment:
"There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute or common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back."
There was a time when power generation "had" to be centralized, just as AT&T "needed" to have a telecom monopoly and we "need" to have ISPs. Technology is sweeping us past that necessity; those days are ending.
Now that the utilities have stripped and burned most of the easily-stripped fossil fuel resources (leaving no such easy plundering for future generations) and kept the profits for themselves, we are all starting to enjoy getting a slice of the pie. Dear Utes: don't let the door hit you in the ass.
Now, if a lot of consumers put solar panels on their roofs but remain connected to the grid, then they will pay less to the utility which stands to fail to get back its fixed costs.
So, eventually the customer will get an electric bill that itemizes a much larger fixed cost for the connection and a lower variable cost for the actual power.
In the meanwhile, there will be a lot of 'politics' where people with solar panels want to pay not enough for the fixed cost of the grid which will mean that people without solar panels will pay too much.
And the people with solar panels will want to be able to sell power back to the utilities which; such power will cause engineering problems on the grid, and the solution of these problems will raise the fixed costs.
For the batteries, so far they are too expensive. Same for home electric generators. Generally a big problem with electric power is that storage is very expensive.
Net, for generating electric power, super tough to improve on the results of the last 100 years in electric power engineering where the power comes from falling water, burning coal, or nuclear fission.
In simple terms, for the grid, really no one wants power from unreliable sources such as wind and solar because (1) still need the fixed cost of the present system for when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining, (2) wind/solar variability can cause stability issues on the grid (to be solved by a 'smart grid', that is, more fixed cost for the grid), (3) the good wind/solar sources are generally too far from the major grid demands meaning long distance transmission lines (more cost). My guess is that if take the subsidies away from wind and solar, then for the grid wind/solar will fall like a lead balloon.
Broadly, wind/solar for the grid asks us to pay for fixed cost twice, once for wind/solar and again for our current system for when wind/solar are not providing enough power.
Heck, except for dress up, I have just one pair of shoes and wear them rain or shine -- I don't have separate shoes for rain and then shine. I have one computer for night and day and not separate computers for each. I want to pay for just one source of fixed cost of electric power, not one source on days with wind or sun and another source otherwise.
Power from wind/solar may be useful, say, for smelting aluminum, generating hydrogen from water, providing energy to make gasoline for water and coal. Note something these three candidate uses have in common: The output is easily stored, that is, buffered. Then notice the problem of electric power for the grid: The means of storage are far to inefficient.
For the grid, as far as I can see, wind and solar are just nonsense pushed by a 'wind/solar subsidy industry' that wants to talk people into measuring temperature not with thermometers but pictures of polar bears.
There is another candidate, small nukes. So, from Japan can buy a 'box'. In a neighborhood, dig a hole in the ground, install the box, and cover it over. Connect the box to the grid of the neighborhood. Then the box, just buried in its hole in the ground, provides all the electric power for the neighborhood for, say, 20 years. The savings are maintaining the long distance power transmission from the power station to the neighborhood. Of course the interior of the box is a nuclear fission reactor.
Now if my startup works and I get rich and build a nice place in the rural hills of, say, New Hampshire, then maybe I will be able to get such a box! Also for my 4 wheel drive truck to get around in the winters, use that power to make gasoline from water and coal! Maybe!
So if you and your neighbors can share power via 48VDC with no approval then you can run your own inverters to power your household stuff. There are plenty of grid-following micro-inverters that can be purchased fairly inexpensively.
Forklift batteries cost a few grand but give you many kilowatt-hours worth of energy storage. Considering that the average US house seems to use about 1kW of power on average a 40kWh battery pack would allow huge amounts of flexibility to decide when to run a generator, use solar cells, wind turbines, etc. http://www.midwestlifttrucks.com/offgrid.html
No Lead-Acid I know of actually beats out grid power in this application yet (you can about break-even, but what's the point?).
Some of the new, cheap Lithium-Ion batteries may do it, but a game-changer would be a low-cost fuel cell of some kind (rechargeable Iron-Air for example would be incredibly cheap).
Say a little old lady wants solar panels but is in no way capable of installing them anymore than she can install plumbing.
Power utilities should offer solar panels, wind turbines, battery storage systems. Even electrical to hydrogen foe storage.
The power company should be like an ISP only instead of modems they service power generating devices.
Obviously utilities companies will (try to find a way to) pivot, and provide services or guarantees that a disconnected setup would not have.
Hell, they may even install panels on your roof when your house is built in exchange for discount/free energy, and sell the excess for profit.
Soon, I'd wager. As I see it, the purpose of this report is FUD, which is usually the opening move of any protectionist initiative.
Edit: alternately, they'll push to tax it to high hell, or at least argue that they own sunshine (like water utilities do over rainwater collection) and should therefore be paid by PV users.
-A former utility engineer
Anyway, enhancing shareholder value isn't necessarily at odds with allowing people to generate electricity with distributed solar. You can defer quite a bit of capital expense (e.g. power lines) if the load gets reduced by generation.
Finally, for some regulated utilities, maximizing revenue doesn't mean maximizing profits. Sometimes regulations set the profit, and there are ways to game it that don't involve running the utility as a private-profit-maximizing firm.