Roof-top Solar Panels – Who Pays? Who Saves?

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:20 am by Administrator

Many jurisdictions around the world are encouraging the installation of roof-top solar panels by providing a number of financial and regulatory support mechanisms. These include direct grants to reduce the cost of installation, guaranteed prices for solar power sold back into the grid, and “net metering” whereby only the net flow of electricity from the grid to the residence can be charged for by the utility company.

We need to move to a renewable energy base. Most people would agree with that.

But when it comes to roof-top solar panels there are some inequities that need to be considered.

Consider the two residential settings shown in the pictures.

The amount of rooftop solar real estate available to the owners of the single-family houses is more than 10 x that available for the seniors living in the apartment complex. In fact, it would be quite possible for the single-family homes to generate as much electricity as they consume so that the local utility company would actually derive no revenue from these homes because of “net metering”.

In the case of the apartment building this is simply not possible.

In the late afternoon and into the night both the single family residences and the apartments will require electricity from the utility grid. But who pays for the generation capacity required to supply this electricity? The only people paying utility bills are the residents of the seniors apartment.

But the situation is actually quite a bit worse than that.

The single-family homes will generate the most electricity between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. This is not a “peak” period for electricity demand so that much of this electricity will flow back into the grid. The local utility company will have to provide additional equipment to handle the two-way flow of electricity to and from these houses. Other equipment will be required to make sure that the “back flow” does not damage transformers and meters that may be a considerable distance from the houses. Finally, the utility company will have to implement additional procedures to deal with the intermittent nature of the electricity generated from the solar panels. For example, a passing cloud can reduce solar power generation by 60% or more in a minute or less.

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  1. carzin said,

    March 3, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    This is one of those ‘not seeing the forest through the trees’ articles…

    let me start at the bottom:
    “Update: after doing a bit of research I found that utilities are starting to recognize the inequities in supporting roof-top solar. The Arizona Public Service Company is proposing a service charge of $50-100/month to help offset the cost of supporting roof-top solar. ”

    Horrible approach. To begin with, solar generation is not ‘the’ problem with the SRP energy generation. Energy efficiency increases and their mass adoption, as a whole, are a problem… There are essentially three major ways to cut your energy bill… 1) Use less energy (do without). 2) Increase the efficiency of your appliances to use less energy (don’t do without, but pay up front to reduce long term costs) 3) Generate your own power.

    Conservation, as a general rule, in the end, doesn’t save people money… especially with utilities. infrastructure is normally the biggest expense, and you still need the infrastructure, regardless of how much energy is consumed. So, forgetting about solar, if everyone decided to go to option 1, utilities would jack up the rates across the entire base to make up the difference. You would be paying more for less. Happens all the time, especially when it comes to water. Moving to number 2… The real problem. Energy efficiency. Since we generally don’t like to give up anything, the new way to have your cake and to eat it to is by drastically increasing the energy efficiency of the millions of builder grade tract homes in America, with crap HVAC units and appliances. MOST people either have, or will be in the very near future, be upgrading HVAC systems that are reducing their electricity bills by 25%+… So, in looking at the problem, in Arizona, where there is STILL less than 2% solar home installs, what is the big problem with loss of revenue? Obviously it is the reduction in consumption from 98% of the rest of the homes. So, what do you do about it? Well, in the Arizona municipal owned coop, they give the 98% people a 4% increase, and the solar users see their bills doubled. Sound far and logical? Nope. Scape goating at its finest.

    So, when the total homes in America that have rooftop solar are less than 1% in total, you will find the argument IMPOSSIBLE to support factually that solar owners, in any significant way, are even in the ballpark of being a real problem, or being THE problem.

    Most solar owners just want fairness. And the utility companies make it virtually impossible NOT to net meter. In many cases, it would be better off for the energy producers to simply give a fractioned percentage of credit for energy sent back to the grid instead of 1:1, or stop it entirely, but there is no option. And with the rates in places like Arizona, you essentially take away almost the entire benefit of having solar in the first place. The savings just aren’t there.

  2. Administrator said,

    March 4, 2015 at 12:55 am

    Thanks for taking the time to comment – informed debate is the cornerstone of understanding.

    I continue to believe that roof-top solar is a very inefficient and ultimately unfair way to tap into this great energy resource. Installations are more expensive than on utility-scale solar farms, maintenance issues will be ignored by many, and the relatively few individuals that own single-family dwellings and can afford to install roof-top solar will be subsidized by the majority of citizens that do not have that option. All of the details regarding my objections are covered in this blog entry and the ones it refers to.

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