Wind needs transmission, and solar doesn’t.
A bit of a revelation to some, maybe, but it actually brings with it great consequences and options for a country’s energy mix.
David Crane, the CEO of NRG Energy, one of the largest energy companies in the US, is a big believer in clean energy, including distributed solar, and recently he described the direction that he thought the US solar industry should be taking.
The basis of the argument is that currently solar is always linked to wind power as another alternative energy, yet wind power requires large tracts of land for the wind farms, and then miles of transmission infrastructure to deliver the power to homes. Solar panels on the other hand can be installed on the roofs of those very homes, doing away with the need for transmission lines.
Crane states that wind and solar must accept this fundamental difference and, for the good of solar, separate.
Solar needs different allies, ones who can help homeowners generate, and manage their own power needs enough to be independent of the grid, which can fail and cause blackouts; allies such as energy management companies, Nest for example.
Another ally suggested by Crane, and not the most obvious, is natural gas. Crane says that homeowners with solar panels will need an alternative form of energy for when the sun doesn’t shine, and natural gas is the perfect choice.
However he does not talk of natural gas being burnt in giant power plants, but rather piping the gas directly to homes where microturbines can generate electricity. Homeowners haven’t really felt any benefit from the low gas prices in the US because utilities tend to pocket the extra value, keeping end prices the same. Piping the gas direct to the homes would reduce energy bills massively.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com