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Rooftop Solar Energy Tug of War

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John Benson's picture
Senior Consultant, Microgrid Labs

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: Microgrid Labs, Inc. Advisor: 2014 to Present Developed product plans, conceptual and preliminary designs for projects, performed industry surveys and developed...

  • Member since 2013
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  • Aug 12, 2021

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California has aggressively promoted photovoltaic systems for small and medium facilities – everything from the rooftops of single-family homes to solar parking lot covers for public campuses and private businesses, and medium-sized arrays on farms, ranches and industrial sites. By and large this program has been very successful. The following is from a post from an earlier paper.

In 2006, then-Governor Schwarzenegger signed the Million Solar Roofs Initiative into law, which set a goal of building one million solar energy systems on homes, schools, farms, and businesses throughout the state. Now, the idea that once made international headlines for its “wow factor” is a reality…

The Million Solar Roofs Initiative was also the catalyst for significant job growth in an industry that supports hundreds of local small businesses and over 77,000 jobs — more people than employed in the state’s five largest utilities combined…

As they celebrated the one million solar roofs milestone, solar advocates kept their focus on the future with a call for one million solar-charged batteries by 2025. With today’s batteries, homeowners and businesses can store solar energy for use after sundown or during a blackout. This smooths out prices, takes pressure off the electric grid, and gives consumers a degree of independence previously unheard of…

This post looks at the current battle taking place in the California PUC over continuing the state’s current generous program to encourage solar rooftops, versus the equity imbalance this has created.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 12, 2021

John, there's no requirement home solar owners remain tethered to utility electricity. If they don't want to help pay for new transmission, maintenance, and administration costs, the choice is simple: cancel their utility service! By going off-grid, they can rid themselves of that nagging dependence on big corporations for reliable electricity. 

Tossing a quarter to homeless Californians camped on the sidewalk when they pass could help assuage any lingering guilt over voting for a governor who required new homes to have solar panels. Certainly the homeless can understand why rooftop solar is more important than having a place to sleep. And look to the future - with 30 GW of rooftop solar installed by 2045, that's about when panels installed today will start needing to be replaced. The money to be made, and spent, is endless. And all those jobs...the state won't be able to borrow money fast enough!

Honestly, those of us who value reliable electricity will be glad to see them go. All their whining for more subsidies, and net-metering...I say "Good riddance!" And if I'm lucky enough to be alive in 2045, the quarter I toss their way will be well worth it.

John Benson's picture
John Benson on Aug 13, 2021

Hi Bob:

Thanks for the comment. 

I haven't put PV panels on my roof yet, but I'm probably within a couple of years of doing it. As I was writing this paper, I skimmed through most of the presentations (List of "Primary Parties" starting on the bottom of page 6 is linked to these). If the PUC follows suit vs. most of the other proceedings I've been involved in, it will try to find a middle-ground, so this will probably provide an early indication of where they will end up. Their ruling will tell me what configuration of PV + Storage will have the most benefits for my residence in Livermore. However I have many other questions.

I track Tesla well enough to believe the latest version of Powerwall will probably be the best unit for for storage. PV typically has a life of 30 years, but what maintenance is required? I will continue to track PV, so I should be able make the best decision as to which technology to use.

I'm not inclined to go off-grid currently, for a number of reasons, but mainly because I have good power availability which will provide a good backstop for my 'home energy system. I'm mainly just looking to reduce energy-cost to the minimum.

I've already upgraded my HVAC to the most efficient unit available. My main house is well insulated and has double-pane glazing, so PV + Storage is probably the next step.

I will probably post one or more papers as I see the best path forward.


Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Aug 16, 2021

If someone wants to install solar panels and battery backups, fine. Just use your own money and not force everyone to subsidize your dalliances. Nor should the government force homeowners and businesses to install solar panels and batteries, as this is an unfunded mandate. Ditto for the government preventing the use of natural gas. California has degenerated into a fiefdom ruled by the powerful, replete with serfs crushed under the boot of the elite.  Will be interesting to see if freedom will prevail in the upcoming re-call effort. My hunch is that those in power will never be thrown out as they manufactured a political system with absolute power over the population. 

John Benson's picture
Thank John for the Post!
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