Distributed Generation Makes Big Numbers

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14 Comments

Mary Saunders
March 22, 2011
Amen, alligatorhardt. Multi-crystalline has color to it, which makes it more attractive to some, even though efficiency is less. See-through will also have some appeal to some others. It's a matter of figuring out what works best in what micro-climate.
Allen Gerhardt
March 22, 2011
I dispute the idea that solar panels are ugly. When I see solar panels I feel good and that makes me smile. There are so many of the same houses that home design is about as innovative as clothing design, which is recycled same old thing. sometimes I think the title of designer is not even deserved if all we see are the same models repeated ad-nauseum. If more homes made their own power and transmission lines were eliminated now that would be a visual improvement. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and this one can see the invisible advantages of clean air and water when I see solar panels.
Scott Mueller
March 3, 2011
Great article John,

I can also speak from personal experience that the level of community pride in areas with high amounts of distributed generation is amazing. I have visited a handful of communities that are producing more electricity than they are consuming, and there is that aura of confidence and pride that engenders hope. Not to mention that it is strengthening the local economy, creating real wealth and building sustainable communities.

Keep up the effort!
Check out our article that talks about the question of fragmentation vs. consolidation:
http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2011/03/the-u-s-pv-market-a-tale-of-david-vs-goliath?cmpid=SolarNL-Thursday-March3-2011
Lawrence Carroll
March 3, 2011
gary-mccallum-153526, I loved your coment about using solar panels to not only provide a roof type water barier, but to heat water, either for heating/preheating potable water, or for providing supplemental warmth . . .

When Discovery "Planet Green" Channel still had good programs, they featured just such an inventor and his invention that you describe. He had devised an elegant solution (which was shown) that attached a panel to the back of his array -- a heat transfer panel for water. According to the program, it not only preheated his water quite a bit, the cooling effect increased the power of the panels enough to add a small but substantial amount of output -- about 1 panel's output for every 10 (if I recall correctly -- don't remember the size of the panels, though probably around 150 watts each).

Unfortunately, the great programs that they had, that dealt in new technologies and focused on "what you can do," such as "Rennovation Nation," "The G Word," and so many others are no more. Sarah Palin is now Discovery Channel's offical mascot and their Goddess . . .
Jim Stack
March 3, 2011
It would be even bigger if the Utilities in our area didn't cut their incentives. They also spend a lot on big projects so the funds run low even fatser.
They also don't have the FIT Fed In Tarrif like Germany where they pay the real value of Peak Time of Day ,clean , renewable energy.
Mary Saunders
March 2, 2011
Attractiveness is largely culturally determined. It may not make perfect sense for Portland to have a lot of solar. Famous for trees and rain, Stumptown nonetheless sports a lot of panels.

While architects in general are not working, the ones doing energy and resource upgrades are doing better, and at least one, famous for her solar work, is busy.

If people want distributed energy, they will make it happen.

The major utilities here seem to get that they will just have to go with what people want. One utility seems more on board than the others. I have heard the word de-coupling from utility workers themselves, in public.

Some of the local media have noted it when one utility seems more sullen than another. It makes the laggard seem culturally insensitive.

There are so many laid-off people already, the newly laid off could join a band, show art in a coffee shop, start a food cart, or invent a new beer flavor. Maybe our utility guys are more laid back about possible reductions in force from their day jobs.

An engineer could put a custom panel on his food cart, and find the best light spot each day.

Obstacles to distributed generation will get ground down over time. Things can't go to scale with one-size-fits-all, on the same schedule, but buzz will quicken, and micro-climate cohorts will brainstorm and fine-tune. We will have competing clearing houses, to track details.
ANONYMOUS
March 2, 2011
Lovely. So individuals can make a difference! Who knew. The big incumbents have big bank accounts, well developed infrastructure and more than a few politicians in their back pocket. What they don't have is manouverability. Don't expect them to come up with anything, anymore than whalers could think of coal gas or coal gas producers could think of electricity. As someone on ted.com remarks, the whalers ran out of sustomers before they ran out of whales. Waking up to a new day has never been the forte of sleeping giants of industry.
Even the big customers of big electricity have a similar inertia: there's just not enough Walmart to go around, but then there is at least Walmart and Starbucks and others, even GM and Oakland airport, etc. so it's not hopeless at that level, just slow. At one time it was a mantra amongst corporate managers that "nobody ever got fired for buying IBM" but where are they now? "nobody ever got fired for buying BlackBerry"??

I currently spend $45 per month buying LED lighting for my home. Why? Because I understand economy of scale and want to contribute my widow's mite to the cause. Oh, and the light's better and the ROI is respectable and growing more respectable every day as my rates keep going up.
ANONYMOUS
March 2, 2011
Here is another issue that holds back change by skewing cost comparisons

from the LCV Scorecord #10 Offshore Drilling Subsidies:

Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) offered this amendment to
eliminate up to $53 billion in taxpayer subsidies by closing a royalty
payment loophole for oil companies operating offshore.
OHouse rejected the Markey amendment by a vote of 174-251
(House roll call vote 109). YES IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE.
Les Blevins
March 2, 2011
Monopoly utilities will try to use the "Smart Gid" concept and the concept of "Smart Meters" to put a firewall up between users of DG and their profits but this won't keep DG from taking a larger and larger share of the power market.
ANONYMOUS
March 2, 2011
We all know this is the answer, and we all know what's the problem. Most of our utilities are publicly held monopolies. The only way to make money for investors is to increase the number of users, increase price, and sell more power to the existing users. They can not control (attract) people moving to their serving area, as monopolies they can't price their product as they wish; so there is only one way to "increase" sales. And promoting energy savings goes against stockholders' interest; so is supporting politicians that push for solar residential rebates or credits.
Gary McCallum
March 2, 2011
Good to see people are starting to think straight thanks to European leadership.
I still think the biggest impedance to solar in North America is it's UGLY and architects are reluctant to use PV/thermal solar because it detracts from what they are trying to attain, which is asthetic appeal.
If I may mount my soap box one more time
The manufactures of solar pannels need to make products that are compatable with construction methods so that they can be intigrated into the structure, not just an add on.
A solar PV pannel could be integrated into a wood frame truss sustem to provide a water proof structural component and the heat can further be removed from the back to increase the efficiency and provide hot water.
I know its not difficult as I have 4/5 of a design in my head. My bets would say such modular design improvements could increase sales three fold and finally give designers and architects something to work with.
This slight rant is presented to you by a frustrated builder/designer/solar advocate who often hears the grumblings of architects about ugly solar they do not want to add to their problematic, inefficient, lack of leadership buildings
Patrick O'Leary
March 2, 2011
So much roofing surface area, so little time.

Combine energy generation and energy efficiency, combine daylighting and solar thermal and PV and suddenly we're talking about the real economy.

The big numbers are in low profile buildings, the big boxes. No need to tear up the desert and incur transmission losses.
Peter Lilienthal
March 2, 2011
Distributed projects also reduce the need for new transmission, which may take decades to permit in the US. In a hybrid micro-grid configuration, they can also increase reliability in a way that centralized projects never can. We are starting to focus our future efforts with the HOMER software (www.homerenergy.com) on micro-grids for exactly these reasons.
Peter Lilienthal, Ph.D.
CEO,HOMER Energy
Anumakonda Jagadeesh
February 28, 2011
Americans think BIG IS BOUNTIFUL while developing countries think SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL. Small distributed power will add up quickly rather than waiting for large power production. After all 1+1+1+ ........ leads to infinity.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

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John Farrell

John Farrell

John Farrell directs the Energy Self-Reliant States and Communities program at ILSR and he focuses on energy policy developments that best expand the benefits of local ownership and dispersed generation of renewable energy. His latest paper,...
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