Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Rooftop Solar Set to Outshine Massive Solar Farms

Business
Rooftop Solar Set to Outshine Massive Solar Farms

Jack Dolgin is a freshman at Duke University. Originally from New York, NY, he is a dorm Eco-Rep, Senator for Facilities and Environment on Duke Student Government, and interested in studying environmental science and political science.

In 2013, the U.S. built the gargantuan, $2.2 billion Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, the largest cluster of solar panels in the world. However, besides killing birds flying overhead, Ivanpah represents a centralized, utility-run model of solar technology that is both the first of its size and quite possibly the last.

One of three power towers at Ivanpah, each surrounded by 100,000-120,000 solar panels. Photo credit: Gilles Mingasson / Getty Images for Bechtel

With solar prices dropping substantially every year, residential solar panels are now increasingly enticing. They are a cost-effective alternative to utility-owned large fields like Ivanpah because they do not incur the highly expensive costs of transporting energy from the hinterlands to the city. Residential solar systems are also predicted in two years to be cheaper than coal- and oil-based energy generation.

In other words, solar panels on houses work because residents use energy under the same roof from where they get their energy. No transportation, no extra costs.

A few other political and economic initiatives, though, have also helped make a distributed network an especially enticing future. Forty-three states have passed legislation allowing for net metering, in which excess residential solar energy is sold to utility companies. The next push will be for states to allow homeowners with solar panels to sell excess energy straight to neighbors rather than through utilities.

In fact, the dream is already in the making.

As solar panels become more efficient, solar prices have fallen in the last 40 years from $76.67/watt to under $0.63/watt. Graph: CleanTechnia

For Americans that don't own a home or have rooftops capable of supporting solar panels, there are still options to support solar energy. By joining collectives you can save 25 to 30 percent on energy costs.

Meanwhile, the private sector has helped overcome another issue associated with installing rooftop solar panels: upfront costs.

Solar panel loaning and Power Purchase Agreements, in which residents either put up solar panels on a loan or allow companies to put up solar panels on their houses, are very effective because big buyers, rather than residents, pay for the upfront costs, and they also lock in long-term energy rates.

One may wonder why utility companies have not become one of these “big buyers.” But, in certain circumstances, they have.

However, while utilities may be protected when it comes to energy sources like coal, the residential solar panel market is becoming increasingly saturated. Not only are more conventional companies like SolarCity, Sunrun and Sungevity competing to make loans for solar panels, but also, third-party buyers like the military are making loans to military families.

Morgan Stanley and Morningstar predict residential solar systems to deeply pierce utilities’ share on the solar industry in as little as three years. Map: Clean Power Research

Perhaps the final blow comes from the fact that economic theories demonstrate that as consumers leave utilities, prices will go up, leading to more consumers leaving and creating a downward spiral.

It is not shocking, then, to learn that Morgan Stanley and Morningstar predict residential solar systems to deeply pierce utilities’ share on the solar industry in as little as three years.

Trouble already looms for utility companies in Germany, many steps ahead of the U.S. in green technology. Germany has seen distributed renewable technology, including residential solar panels, soar to 60 percent of all renewable energy, thereby devastating utility companies.

Make no mistake: utilities are going to do their best to hang around in the U.S. They may even tap into the residential solar technologies or convince the government for short-term tariff measures.

Nevertheless, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: rather than a few big clusters, solar panels are going to be both more prevalent and more dispersed. You may even find yourself contributing to this transformation.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Stupidity of Pink Fracking Fully Exposed on The Daily Show

Germany’s Biggest Utility Dumps Fossil Fuels for Renewables

Interactive Map: Find Out How Your State Ranks on Renewable Energy

54% of parents with school-age children expressed concern that their children could fall behind academically, according to a poll conducted over the summer of 2020. Maria Symchych-Navrotska / Getty Images

By Pamela Davis-Kean

With in-person instruction becoming the exception rather than the norm, 54% of parents with school-age children expressed concern that their children could fall behind academically, according to a poll conducted over the summer of 2020. Initial projections from the Northwest Evaluation Association, which conducts research and creates commonly used standardized tests, suggest that these fears are well-grounded, especially for children from low-income families.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A teenager reads a school English assignment at home after her school shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic on March 22, 2020 in Brooklyn, New York. Andrew Lichtenstein / Corbis via Getty Images

The pandemic has affected everyone, but mental health experts warn that youth and teens are suffering disproportionately and that depression and suicide rates are increasing.

Read More Show Less

Trending

In an ad released by Republican Voters Against Trump, former coronavirus task force member Olivia Troye roasted the president for his response. Republican Voters Against Trump / YouTube

Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read More Show Less
Climate Group

Every September for the past 11 years, non-profit the Climate Group has hosted Climate Week NYC, a chance for business, government, activist and community leaders to come together and discuss solutions to the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
A field of sunflowers near the Mehrum coal-fired power station, wind turbines and high-voltage lines in the Peine district of Germany on Aug. 3, 2020. Julian Stratenschulte / picture alliance via Getty Images

By Elliot Douglas

The coronavirus pandemic has altered economic priorities for governments around the world. But as wildfires tear up the west coast of the United States and Europe reels after one of its hottest summers on record, tackling climate change remains at the forefront of economic policy.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch