I meet a lot of people who think they can’t solve the energy problem going on in the world. They believe it’s up to the government and the utilities to figure that out. Even if these same people support renewable energy, they still think they can’t make a difference. What will my 12 solar panels really do compared to the massive wind project in Cape Cod or the utility-scale solar farm proposed for Greenfield, Massachusetts? They are wrong. It’s up to all of us to solve the energy crisis. One of the reasons why we became a residential and commercial solar installer is because we are passionate that distributed generation makes sense.
There is a huge push for renewable energy in the United States right now because more than half of the states in the United States have escalated their renewable portfolio standards. The Renewable Portfolio Standard, or RPS, is the energy mix that is received from renewable sources. For example, Massachusetts has an RPS of 15% by 2020, Connecticut has an RPS of 20% by 2020, and Rhode Island has an RPS of 16% by 2019. In order to reach these goals, there are both federal and state incentives. Right now, big utilities are pushing to get all of these incentives to subsidize the cost of multi-billion dollar photovoltaic, solar thermal, and wind projects. If this happens, then aren’t we letting the same people who were in charge of the old energy world be in charge of the new one?
Now, let’s go back to the these utility-scale renewable energy projects and take a deeper look. Where are most of these projects? Since they need millions of acres of land, don’t they have to be in rural areas? That means that huge oversized transmission lines, costing up to $10 million a mile, have to connect these energy “farms” to places where there are homes and businesses. These lines are oversized because there is a tremendous amount of electricity loss, up to 10%, during transmission. The other problem with these projects is that they have to go through a multi-year evaluation process which means no one will benefit from the power they generate for several years.
I’m sure a lot of people don’t understand the concept of a microgrid. It’s pretty simple. It is best explained as small-scale electricity generation for a specific geographic location – it could be solar panels on your roof or a wind turbine in your backyard. You would be your own power plant. There would be very little transmission loss because the electricity doesn’t have to travel far. A small wind or solar project can also start almost immediately and you wouldn’t be backlogged in an evaluation process. Best of all, the profits from energy generation aren’t going to the utilities, the savings are passed along to homeowners and business. Have I convinced you yet that everyone of us as individuals have the “power” to change the world? I hope so.