Solar power is at a dead end, and I say that happily. I also say it as the CEO of a US-based solar company. On its path and in its current direction, it is impossible for solar energy to go any further.
However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. We just need to start looking at and thinking about solar power differently. This is where my happiness comes into play. Dead ends in the green business world always result in one of two outcomes – a strengthening of an industry for the better, or the demise of an industry that could not find a way to survive.
Thankfully we have the sun in our sky to shed light on the direction in which we should be headed. We must knife a fork in the road to solar power progress, converging the paths of solar-integrating technologies, consumer perspectives and incentives that, when smoothly aligned with solar power, reinvigorate the potential of solar energy.
In fact, 2019 will likely be to solar panels what 1300 AD was to the Renaissance. The Renaissance, berthed in Italy at the turn of the 14th century, was a movement fulfilled by the organizing principle that human beings have limitless explanatory power. Like the year 1300 AD, the stage is set for a solar renaissance, one that proves humans will have limitless power over their power, period.
Although the tariff has and will continue to arguably decrease direct investment in solar power, solar power will prove itself an indispensable part in the orchestration of solar-integrating and solar-plus technologies.
Here’s how we can make that happen.
Complementary solar and solar plus technologies
- IoT (Internet of Things) and Solar Power
IoT (Internet of Things) can be defined as the network created in homes, buildings and businesses when vehicles, home appliances, electronics, software, sensors, and actuators connect and exchange data based on user preferences.
In essence, the IoT is a way for consumers to expend less of their own physical energy in managing power and devices in their home, while solar energy is is a way for consumers to expend less of their grid tied electricity to run power in their living spaces.
This doesn’t just have implications for the home, though. Controlling the environmental factors in a workplace in hopes of fueling workplace productivity – a major field of research among contemporary industrial organizational psychologists – is something of which commercial solar can only further compound positive effects, especially given the reduced power costs it offers.
Solar energy and the IoT will also converge through smart metering technology, smart thermostats, remote monitoring (which makes controlling electrical usage in a home easier and therefore more likely to happen), and expansive wireless ranges.
The interplay of window technology and solar energy
Did you know $20 billion dollars of energy leaks out of windows in the United States each winter? Researchers are working on developing better insulating windows that make energy efficiency a greater priority, and could potentially save $10 billion annually in energy costs.
Solar power will further assist homeowners and businesses using smart window technology by reducing the amount of production the panels will have to make to sustain a building’s energy demands.
With windows that insulate buildings more effectively, building inhabitants expend less power on heating and air conditioning, which means fewer solar panels needed, and, therefore, lower solar energy installation costs and greater accessibility to solar power for the average American.
This will help solar power because inversion and days where sunlight is minimal will not have as much of a negative impact on homeowners’ and businesses’ ability to produce power to meet their electrical demands, therefore requiring less of a system offset of a solar system as well.
Solar energy for businesses is already a big pull in Utah (where GoSolar is headquartered), because 100% of solar expenses can be written off in first year if the solar buyer owns his or her property. Although businesses who rent out their space cannot currently qualify for this credit, that may change in the near future as the reliance on fossil fuels and coal-based power becomes increasingly expensive and harmful to the environment, therein tipping the government scale to focus more on monetary incentives for businesses to go solar.
Storage, backup and battery backup technologies
These solar plus technologies provide power continuity, greater energy efficiency, and more savings potential and ownership over one’s power depending on net metering policies of the location’s utility provider.
For instance, in Utah, a residential battery backup and storage system can help homeowners save more money, as they’ll be able to store power they don’t need to use yet as opposed to exporting leftover power back on to the grid at 90% of the retail rate.
What’s the difference between storage, backup, and battery backup? Although there’s some overlap among the 3, the below distinctions will help.
A device that is capable of keeping energy for use at a later time; a battery.
A way to use electricity, in the event of a power outage. Can either be in the form of a battery/storage, or instantaneous use of the electricity from the solar panels.
Interchangeable with storage. A battery is an electrical storage device. A type of backup. So, while all batteries are backup, not all backup is a battery.
Although battery backup and backup prices are a tough pill to swallow, the demand for solar will rise to meet the impending environmental challenges of our time, therein pooling research and development budgets into funding and engineering more affordable battery backup and secure power supply backup options.
Solar’s role in the soon-to-evolve community Infrastructure
- City Infrastructure
Charging ports for electrical vehicles are emerging in greater numbers every day, and as urban centers expand in number in population size, so do the consequences of relying on old school energy production in the form of coal-based power and fossil fuel-based power.
Solar power will be an effective one-two punch with environmentally conscious cities, that will increasingly design infrastructure around public transportation over personal transportation for environmental benefits and reduced congestion/Co2 emissions that traffic cause. Solar will likely play a huge role in making cost reduction for these make these eco-friendly urban plans possible.
- Residential infrastructure, real estate and home owner associations (HOAs)
It’s difficult to calculate how much home value and resale value improves with residential solar installation, and the same goes for neighborhood value, HOAs, and apartment complexes. However, solar savings are compounded in large-scale solar projects, which also stand to have more positive environmental and health outcomes for area residents.
Sometimes referred to as “solar garden,” community solar projects take solar power provided by a third-party, and distribute the electricity to a community of homes.
This is not only a viable option for lower income areas, but also a sustainable model for charitable solar projects. While few private entities have embraced this delivery model, government dollars have been used to reify these projects.
This delivery model for solar power will get us even closer to achieving grid parity. As more people join the solar revolution, entire communities will benefit. For most, the price is the main reason why they don’t want solar. However, community solar allows more individuals the ability to afford renewable energy in mass.
The future of solar plus is bright
In consideration of these advantages to solar plus products, what may have looked like a dead end for solar power becomes an open door through which resoundingly powerful possibilities – much like the ones presented by the sun’s itself – are revealed.
Written by Scott Cramer, President of Go Solar Group, a Utah (US) solar company.