This article was sponsored by A1 Batterypro.
Solar power has long been a dream of technologists, environmentalists, and clear thinkers of all sorts. As Thomas Edison said in 1931, “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” In recent years, solar has actually become so cost-competitive that solar power is finally growing in leaps and bounds — big ones.
Many would now say that solar power is mainstream. Solar was the #2 source of electricity generation capacity in the US last year, only trailing natural gas. In several months, including January of this year, it was the #1 source. There’s a similar story elsewhere as well — in South Australia, for example, over 20% of homes now have solar panels on them!
However, almost all of these solar systems are connected to the electricity grid, and essentially use the grid as backup for when the sun isn’t shining. This is a fairly efficient system. Solar homeowners and other power plants owners are all pooling their electricity supplies in order to share their electricity when they don’t need it and borrow others’ when they need more (to put it in very simplistic terms). It’s actually a great fit for the trending “sharing economy.” However, the system is far from perfect….
These images above are solar systems from A1 Batterypro, an independent solar panel installer; however, in many places, these electricity grids are run by monopolies — regulated monopolies, but not perfectly regulated ones. It’s been well documented that distributed solar power producers threaten the entire monopolistic business model of these utilities. They threaten a utility death spiral. Rather than change their business models and find a profitable way into the growing solar sector, however, many utilities are fighting solar power and trying to slow or stop its growth. With solar prices continuing to fall and now battery prices are also beginning to fall to competitive levels, that could make the matter even worse for utilities. In a handful of cases, solar + battery storage is actually already a better deal than electricity from the grid. But many anticipate that will become the story for many people, maybe even most, in the coming years.
Prices for batteries have dropped a ton in the past few years, and they are expected to keep dropping, especially as the electric vehicle industry grows in leaps and bounds. Furthermore, strong incentives for storage are beginning — California and Germany have already implemented some incentives. They have been clear leaders in solar power, and it looks like they will be in distributed energy storage as well.
This is not simply a swapping of technology we are talking about. This is a transformation of our entire electricity system, and if you include the switch over to electric vehicles, it is a transformation of our entire energy system (well, not including food). The ramifications are unfathomable. Ironically, it means a move away from “sharing” and towards self-reliance and independence.
Of course, off-grid solar and storage aren’t new. They have been implemented in very unique cases for decades. For example, when people built homes far away from the grid and didn’t want to (or couldn’t) pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for transmission lines out to their properties. There have also been people who simply want to live off the grid. But the solar + storage story I’m writing about above isn’t about the exceptions — it’s about a trend that could have a tremendous effect on our entire society. Keep an eye on this solar + storage space!
Image Credit: A1 Batterypro