Utilities Fight Against Solar Power

January 7th, 2014

Utility Companies Fight against Solar

The increased installation of residential and commercial solar power systems is causing concern among the nation’s utilities.  Utilities fear solar power may upset the traditional centralized model that has existed since the commercialization of electricity.  Through net metering, utility customers are able to drastically reduce or even entirely offset their electric bills using increasingly affordable solar power systems. As more customers choose to install solar power systems, utility revenue may decrease.  Utilities believe fewer customers will share the divided costs of grid operation and maintenance. However, solar power benefits are not considered by some utilities:

  •  Relieves strain on transmission lines especially during heavy usage in hot summer months or very cold  winters eliminating black outs and power outages
  •  Reduces transmission & distribution costs for maintenance
  • Avoids cost by delaying construction of conventional generation plants
  •  Improves reliability by increasing generation diversity

As the cost of a solar power system plummets, the number of solar power installations  increase. Since 2008 the cost of a PV module has decreased by 80%. In 2013, 30 percent more solar power systems were installed than in 2012.  A 2010 World Energy Council report predicts that in 2100, 70 percent of world energy production may come from solar energy (World Energy Council, 2010). The rapid increase in solar energy deployment threatens electric utilities’ reliance on centralized fossil fuel power plants; Graph shows utility installs in US 300x252 Utilities Fight Against Solar Powerutilities install more solar than commercial or residential customers.

In grid-connected solar power systems, excess power is provided to the grid in a process known as net metering.  In net-metered systems, utilities credit the solar system owner for surplus electric generation the solar power system feeds into the grid. The credit is applied against the power the customer consumes from the grid when the PV system is unable to meet the customer’s electrical demand.  Utility customers pay only for the “net” power they consume from the utility.  As a result of net metering, it is possible for a utility customer to consume grid power while paying the utility little to nothing. Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, all public utilities are required by law to provide net metering to customers upon request (SEIA, 2013). Currently net metering policies are active in 43 states.

As utility power rates continue to increase and the cost of solar power systems continues to decrease, the cost of solar power will eventually equal the cost of grid power, and even become less expensive. Utilities rely on a top-down business model where power is produced at few, large, centralized power plants and dispersed to grid customers. This traditional model is under threat as the feasibility of power production from numerous solar power systems increases and awareness of the fragility and outdated nature of our existing distribution network is exposed by natural disasters like hurricane Sandy,  Richard Caperton of the Center for American Progress outlines a worst-case scenario he calls the “Utility Death Spiral” in which a feedback loop is established where as more customers install solar power, the cost of being grid connected increases, encouraging more ratepayers to leave the grid (Caperton, 2013).  At Sun City Solar Energy, installations of off grid and grid tie with battery backup increase substantially each year.

The writing is on the wall for US electric companies and they are well aware of the deep penetration solar has had on some other grids (see: Germany).  It is not that utilities are ‘evil’ – in fact if you were to ask any one employee of almost any utility what they thought of solar, their response would almost certainly be positive;  Sun City Solar has installed several systems on employees of utility companies. The utilities whose company culture can keep pace with the ideals of their individuals (and match the expansion of distributed generation) are well suited to participate in the evolving grid through transmission and distribution management. The organizations which can’t respond will most likely suffer the same fate as the record labels that ignored the growth of the Web.

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Why You Must Install Solar

September 24th, 2013

Right now is the best time to install solar on your home or building. Why? Technology, efficiency advances and much lower prices. Prices are lower but waiting has some risks. Below are reasons you must install solar now.

 1. Increased efficiency, production and lower cost: Solar panels are being produced cheaper than ever. The cost of a solar panel has fallen from more than $6 to $2.00 a watt. Prices today are less than half of what they were in 2008 and 2009. Solar Power users pay less over time and you own your power.

This chart shows how much your electricity rates increased from July of 2012 to July of 2013.

Residential Cents per kilowatt hour July 2013 July 2012
Oklahoma 9.80 9.05
Arkansas 9.94 9.62
Texas 11.42 10.93
Missouri 12.48 11.23 

2. Solar Power is Cheaper than Grid Power: Grid power is expected to increase a minimum of 3% per year. That means in 25 years your electric rate will be $0.21 per kWh. The cost of solar energy spread over 25 years is $0.16 per kWh BEFORE any federal or state incentives.

 3. Become Your Own Utility have Energy Price Stability:  Utility companies are under constant pressure to make more money. They can’t add new services; they can only make and send you energy and raise their rates. Installing solar power is the only way a homeowner can lock-in their electric rate for the next 40 years, inflation free.  When you install solar power on your home or business, you know how much electricity your system will produce annually. As energy prices skyrocket all around you, you can forecast energy prices for the years to come.  And with net metering, you can actually make money.

4. Be Energy Independent:  Most electricity in the United States is produced by coal. Solar Power is the only energy source made by Americans that isn’t affected by events in other countries.

 5. Dependability: Solar power has no moving parts. The warranty for power produced from the panels is 25 years. The inverter warranty is 15-25 years, but is expected to last longer. 

6. Earn Income: You can get a credit on your electric bill for over producing more solar than you use. This is completely separate from your energy savings. 

7. Solar Employs Americans: The US solar industry employs 120,000 people directly and another 9 million people indirectly. This recently surpassed the coal industry which employs 90,000 people directly and 1 Million in-directly. 

8. Solar Cannot Be Controlled by Government Agencies or Large Corporations: Once you install a solar electric system, the cost of energy from that system cannot be increased by government taxes, or corporate surcharges. You have protected your energy future from outside interference.

9. Incentives and tax breaks: The solar federal tax credit takes 30% off the total cost of your system.

10. Solar is Clean: Most Americans don’t like waste. We like efficiency, and we like getting things done, making things. We prefer a clean, efficient, and effective source of power over something that is wasteful, dirty and inefficient. Solar power produces energy every day without making any noise, without any smell, and without wasting power in transmission. It’s the ultimate American form of power.

11. Increase Building Value:  Whether it’s a home or business, solar installations increase a building’s value.CNN Money reported in 2006 that zeroing out a home’s electric bill with a solar installation could increase the value of a home by up to $20,000. This might be as much as you first paid for your system, but when considering how much you saved in electricity bills while using the solar system and how much it added value to your home at sales time, it’s a sound investment. And the DOE in its publication, A Homebuilder’s Guide to Going Solar says that “Solar homes sell at up to twice the rate of their conventional counterparts”.

12. Energy Reliability :  When you choose to install a solar power system with a battery backup,  solar provides absolute electric reliability, no more blackouts or brownouts when the grid fails. By installing a solar power system you have reliable, predictable power, no matter what happens.


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Solar Panel Longevity

May 7th, 2013

Most panels are warranted to be producing a MINIMUM of 80% of their original power in 25 years.

Sun City Solar Pergola Install1 225x300 Solar Panel Longevity The panel is not going to to turn off at the 25 year mark. Many factors affect solar panel longevity. Many of the early solar panels made back in the 1970s are still running at 80% of their original power capacity. After 40 years, they are producing power well past their predicted useful life, these old panels are still operating efficiently.

The regular warranty for most photovoltaic solar panels is 25 -30 years. Here is how the manufacturers come up with this number: They calculate a loss of efficiency of .8% for every year. At this rate of degradation, after 25 years, the panels will be operating at 80% of their original efficiency. Solar panels should meet a minimum 80% efficiency standard, in order to be effective. Therefore 25 years is the time predicted for these panels to degrade below an 80% efficiency rate.

The Good News, there are crystalline panels that have been running for over 40 years.

What can you do to increase your solar panel longevity?

Solar panels don’t require heavy maintenance. Here are some simple steps you can take to keep them functioning at full capacity for a longer period of time than usual.

  • Pick a manufacturer with a good reputation. For the most part, solar panels are encapsulated in low iron tempered glass and unaffected by the environment. The semiconductor material is isolated from the corrosive atmosphere. If a manufacturer uses sub-standard materials to encapsulate the metal and conductive materials, the panel will degrade.
  • Make sure they have full access to light. Remove any tree limbs or other plant growth that block sunlight. Any shade will have a negative impact on a solar panel’s efficiency – but not just because of blocked photons. The shaded area will be a high-resistance“hotspot”, even, to some degree, with diodes installed. These hotspots can accelerate degradation of the module over time and lead to premature failure.
  • Be sure to keep your solar panels clean. This is doubly true in areas with lots of wind. Keep your panels free of dust, dirt, sand and pollen. In more polluted cities, don’t let smog settle on the panels. In winter, keep snow and frost off the panels when possible.

At Sun City Solar, we find you the “Best Panel at the Best Price”. Give us a call.

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