OT: Why Tesla is interested in distributed generation
U.S. Solar Jumps 41% in 2013 Driven by Residential Demand
By Ehren Goossens Mar 5, 2014 12:01 AM ET
Demand for U.S. solar power increased 41 percent last year driven by record growth in residential projects, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Developers installed 4.75 gigawatts of photovoltaic panels in 2013, making solar the biggest source of new generating capacity after natural gas, the Washington-based trade group said today in a statement. Demand next year will increase 26 percent as rooftop power plants become more common.
Residential projects surged 60 percent over 2012 to 792 megawatts as homeowners embraced financing models such as leasing that let consumers install panels at little to no upfront cost, according to Shayle Kann, vice president of research at Boston-based GTM Research, which publishes the quarterly market reports with SEIA.
“Residential solar in the U.S. is becoming the bedrock of demand for solar and is really a market segment that benefits from extremely attractive economics,” Kann said on a call with reporters yesterday.
Residential installations swelled a record 33 percent in the fourth quarter over the third quarter, and the segment will continue to lead U.S. demand this year.
Utility-scale projects increased 58 percent with 2.85 gigawatts installed last year. That is expected to slow this year as fewer contracts for big solar farms are signed, Arno Harris, SEIA chairman and chief executive officer of solar project developer Recurrent Energy LCC, said on the call.
“The demand landscape has shifted toward projects in the 1 megawatt to 20 megawatt range,” according to the report.
I have always felt that solar would be the biggest segment of new alternate energy production given enough time. Wind surged early on as the cost of wind machines, and the rebates, made wind power them marginally profitable. But the economics are swinging towards the PV solar panel being the least obtrusive, lowest maintenance and easiest substitute for non-fossil fuel energy.
The grid, and lack of excess energy storage options, are still the engineering obstacles for widespread adoption, however, it is a matter of time before solutions will be in place.
Solar, as opposed to wind, is at least fairly predictable and fairly reliable. As the sunlight increases the power output increase is fairly linear. Wind power's output is exponential with a linear increase in wind speed...which is more problematic.
I still like the option of compressed air as storage. It will take varying power increases when excess energy is available and can provide instantaneous output changes to power demand. You don't have to use high temperature operations, rely on 'spinning reserve', produce pollutants and maintenance costs are about as low as you can get. The round trip efficiency is about the same as pumped storage...good...but the infrastructure requirements are much, much less.
I agree with all your points. Compressed air is still the best option for centralized grid storage, though as one thing I read about grid storage is that a hybrid solution using a combination of storage technologies works better than any one technology alone.
The biggest advantage that PV holds over other generation technologies is its stability for even small scale distributed installations. In 2013 combined residential and commercial distributed PV almost equaled Utility scale PV and this year I may even exceed it. Distributed generation offers significant competitive advantages to centralized generation because it competes against the grid retail price vs. wholesale price and distributed grid storage holds a similar advantage. Rooftop PV paired with supplemental battery storage is already competitive in Hawaii and as the price of both PV and batteries drop it will become competitive in other markets as well.
RMI and Think Energy did a recent analysis of the competitiveness of off grid PV/Battery vs. grid electricity. They concluded that a 100% solar solution is competitive in Hawaii (I am skeptical) and will be competitive in most states by 2050 (again skeptical). The biggest flaw in their argument is that most buildings do not have enough space to add a PV array that would supply all their electrical needs. The most likely scenario is that buildings will install PV with some local storage, SolarCity offers a battery pack that will store about 1/3 of the average daily production of the PV array it is installed with, but still rely on the grid.