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First Solar, Inc. Message Board

  • bluecheese4u bluecheese4u Sep 13, 2013 10:05 AM Flag

    Why Are Some Big Utilities Embracing Small-Scale Solar Power?

    Why Are Some Big Utilities Embracing Small-Scale Solar Power?

    One of New York’s largest utilities will save $84 million by paying developers to put solar panels on the roofs of buildings. And it's not alone.

    By Maria Gallucci, InsideClimate News
    Sep 12, 2013

    A handful of U.S. utilities have discovered they can save money by encouraging small rooftop solar projects—the same projects utility industry leaders have insisted were too expensive and unreliable to be practical.

    The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) in New York, for instance, is paying developers to build solar panels on top of buildings in tiny towns that are experiencing population booms but don't have enough electric grid infrastructure to bring in the electricity they need. The pilot initiative will allow the utility to avoid spending more than $80 million to build new transmission lines and grid equipment.

    "It's actually cost-effective to add renewables" this way, said Michael Deering, LIPA's vice president of environmental affairs.

    The program reflects some utilities' changing relationship with distributed generation, or DG, the name for small-scale energy generators like solar systems and micro wind turbines that produce electricity close to where the power is used.

    Many of the nation's 3,200 utilities have resisted distributed generation, partly because they believe the small projects would cut into their profits. Private utilities make their money by investing in infrastructure—mainly massive centralized power plants and high-voltage transmission lines—and then charging customers enough to earn that money back with a guaranteed return. Distributed generation shakes up this century-old model by shifting control of electricity from utilities to smaller developers, communities or individuals, who produce power onsite and rely less on traditional grid infrastructure to keep the lights on. This, in turn, reduces the returns that utilities collect.

    In Germany, distributed generation has been th

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