I am not so pessimistic. The more the costs come down, the more business people see a way to make money and get on board. Look at the Utilities in Iowa and Kansas who opposed Wind - untl they realized that their costs were droppinig wile their price stayed the same. The challenge of utilities will be transitioning from making power and selling it to managing power (no matter the source) for a fee. Same as AT&T had to do for phone calls. I know that there are some politicians and peopls stuck in the "war on coal" debate, but look at states that are investing in renewables. New Jersey, Texas, Iowa, Kansas, Arizona.... It is not just California this time, because the sun energy is there for the taking. And when Warren Buffet invests billions in solar, it is because he sees that there is a market that has been closed for many years that is no available and lucrative over the long term. That sounds pretty smart to me.
I am a huge proponent of solar and see storage as an important contributor to the future of the energy supply. That said, the article is right that for most residences, the grid is a much better "battery" than a battery. The grid is pretty reliable, so a simple scheme of netmetering makes sense. The power generated is used where needed when generated. As renewable cots drop, the economics make more and more sense. The business models take some time to work out. There are a lot of entrenched and paid for facilities, and I don't think they will just disapear overnight. Storage prices need to come down, but the advantages of storge are manyfold and will find more and more applications beyond the ones already called out in this article. Same thing happend to phone calling (I remember waiting till 11pm to call long distance!). The most important thing we can do is not let FALSE information or barriers go up to limit the expansion of renewables. There is still plenty of room to add solar and wind and other forms of renewables with the current grids we have. Look at Germany. They are able to produce more than 30% of power from renewables - and their grid is more reliable (not less) than it was before.
The bailout line was a good hook for this article, but the real value was the very well stated discussion on what distributed power means for utilities. It does not mean that they die, but they have to move from power providers to service providers - just as phone companies did (very good anology). The good news for them is that when power is lower cost, people will use more of it. So, being the middle man between whoever produces and whoever consumes will be a very, very lucrative business. Just not the same as the one they are in now.
I am surprised and disappointed at the tone and lack of informed discussion in the comments following this interesting article.
Installed (onshore) Wind and Solar are economical so long as you have enough wind or sun. The costs have come down tremendously in a relatively short time, mainly because more and more people are in the game. The incentive programs made this happen by giving assurance to the investors, but they are ramping down quickly, because they are hardly needed except politically. Today, PPA's are working well directly with the utilities who don’t see renewables as a threat, but instead as the future.
The future clearly will have a lot of renewable power, because the costs will continue to come down. What other energy generation can state that?
What really disappointed me in the comments were old saws like the cost to produce wind vs the payback. Not only has this been debunked for a long time, but we even see a growing trend in wind to upgrade old farms. It is very logical to triple the power for an existing infrastructure, and you even can sell the old turbines to low cost markets. This is not about recovering cement!
At the same time, we now see billion dollar and growing projects to decommission nuclear plants - and we still don't have any economic way to deal with the radioactive waste. That said, I would welcome incentives to develop such solutions, rather than subsidizing “storage” of wastes. But even then, Nuclear suffers from the fact that you can make bombs. That limits a lot who gets plants. I don’t think we mind so much if Iran builds big wind farms!
Let's keep our focus. The goal is and should be low cost, clean energy. We are on track to achieve that in a way that does not lead to geopolitical war or strife. Surely that is good for all of us!
I am amazed at people who want to write a whole book in comments to defend their position - and who "collect" links from like minded people to look as if they have as strong position. Do they think this is convincing? Solar shines during the day when the sun is out. Wind is pretty easy to predict and reliable. No one tries to say they are steady, regular energy sources. However, they are already cost effective sources that do not pollute, don't require wars for resources, and don't have dangerous long term side effects for humans. Seems like that is worth to continue to develop, as is storage to allow them to become more mainstream. Would there be something bad about our world getting a majority of power from clean sources?
Thank goodness our leaders are starting to come around...
Microinverters make sense if you have lots of shading, but otherwise not so much, especially for residential. Even if the failure rates are lower, inverters will fail. Let's say they fail every 7 years. With DC, you fix/replace the full inverter (probably at a lower cost and with better features), and away you go. With microinverters, you need to get up on the roof, pull out the one panel, and swap the unit. Warranty? Great! Now you get up, pull it out, ship it off, wait for a replacement, then go up again to put it back. You are not a DIY guy? No problem, just pay someone to do it. Now think that you have 30 on your roof. They start failing one per year for the next 18 years. This is just not economical - and you are building in an assumption that the company that gave you the warranty will be around in 7, 15, 20 years. How many companies are around from 20 years ago? Sorry, but for my own house, I would go DC, put a brand name inverter from a major company, and sleep soundly.
There is no argument that we need baseload power and that this has to come from fossils or nuclear. What we need to decide is how fast we want/can move to a much higher balance of renewable energy. Storage will be important, but at the same time, we should be weaning ourselves from dirty coal, then "clean" coal, and figuring out how to really deal with nuclear. Nuclear fission research needs to continue, but we also should have a serious dialogue on what to do with spent fuel and old plants. We are dreaming if we think we can just 'bury" stuff that has half-lifes in the thousands of years!
I am a big supporter of renewables, because really they are just at the start, yet already costs are almost down to the same as coal. Of course, wind and solar can't run 24x7, but if the costs keep dropping that is of little matter. We can then pay for storage easily.
I always ask people - if you could put solar on your house for $10K, would you? The answers are mostly, "No." Then I ask - if you could put it on for $1000? The answer is ALWAYS, "YES!"
We have not really had any technology improvement in solar - just continuous improvement and scale. Obama has done the right thing to go after this, and guaranteed, the innovations are coming.
Wow, one or two people said they had a problem, so it must be a huge trend! Geeze, what a reach this article is. I am not saying it might not require some work to position the lease correctly, but overall, having solar has been clearly shown to increase the resell value. This is like someone saying that people wouldn't buy his house with a pool, because they were concerned about the maintenance. Yes, it could happen, but most people would get it that a guaranteed lower energy bill at no cost to them is a good thing.
I am not saying Dorian did not have a problem, but I just don't see this as a big issue for solar leases. (By the way, I would not do a solar lease. I am pretty convinced that you can do it yourself and the financials would be better. But, it is the same for buying a car. Some people will always choose to pay less as they go and leave the value to someone else.)
One thing no one ever talks about for Germany is that while consumer rates for electricity are high, the business rates are low - due to renewable power. in fact, this is why the Utilities there are struggling. They can't charge premium prices during the day anymore, because on a free and open market there is more than enough power. Germany is very committed to industry which generates jobs. Germans basically get this, so while they complain about high home bills, they also support renewable power and getting rid of nuclear. They understand that having jobs trumps your monthly electric bill.
Sorry to say, but in the US, we seem to want only that corporations make high profits. Jobs are talked about, but what policies are there that drive jobs? Then, we want everything very cheap (hello Walmart), and complain that any rise in costs will "crush the middle class." We ignore the fact that the jobs then go to the lowest possible labor cost countries.
We can fix our problems, but we should really focus on what creates jobs. it is not financial manipulations, or kowtowing to business so that their profits increase. It is simply rewarding companies that employee and produce domestically for the domestic market at least.
Renewables certainly create lots of local jobs - and could create more if we incentivize building up in country - like the Chinese are doing. This isn't rocket science, but we need to have adult conversations about real facts - and focus on jobs, good jobs, and more good jobs.
I think the road idea is good. This is not taking land that is used for anything except cars. Even with traffic, the exposure on roads is actually quite good. You would not put this in dense driving areas unless for the other features of the snow / ice melt, but roads are all over - and easily connected to the grid. If we really had our act together, instead of arguing on paper, we could designate some champion towns in America to pilot such projects and then estimate the costs / beneifts at scale.
I am a big fan of solar and wind. The costs continue to drop with a relatively tiny investment. Imagine where they can be in 10 years. At the same time, getting rid of polution and hazardous energy sources can only be good for us. After all, no matter how rich you are, you still need clean water and clean air to live.
The people doing leases are getting paid for capital risk pure and simple. They also can manage the supply chain and costs plus accounting to make this pay. Assuming you did it yourself, your other option is a loan (bank paperwork), permitting paperwork, installer contract, hope the guarantee holds, and so on. It is NOT like buying or leasing a car, because the product suppliers of cars are big entities that will be around for many years. In solar, even the biggest providers have gone under, so there is much less assurance. A lease takes all that away, you get a smaller, but real savings, and in time, have a low cost / green energy source at your house. Oh, and it also increases the resale value of your home. We now start to see leases showing up in Europe...