Friday, June 21, 2024

Practically Living Green

Showing practical reasons to live green.


The Biggest Problem Facing Solar Installation: The Electric Grid

Solar installation popularity is increasing every year, but despite this, our aging electric grid was never built with solar in mind. In truth, even if solar panels were free, most homeowners could not connect them to the grid.

This is because the electric grid does not allow for energy to be sent back in. To be fair, when the grid was built, this made perfect sense as home solar panels did not exist.

Yet, times are changing and utilities need to make upgrades. Thus, the electric grid itself is the biggest obstacle solar energy faces today.

How Does the Electric Grid Work?

Power Lines

The electric grid is complicated, so I will try to keep it as simple as possible.

Our “modern” electric grid was built in the early 1900s but has constantly been updated. Today, the majority of the technology within the grid and equipment used is from the 1950s. The latest addition to the grid has been the addition of smart metering.

In its simplest terms, the electric grid allows electricity to travel from one point to another in a one-way direction. This means that any excess power generated on-premise is not returned to the grid.

Now I know what you’re thinking, wait, plenty of people get money from sending their energy back to the grid.

That’s true, and in those cases, the grid in those areas has been upgraded to support solar. Odds are, if there are no solar panels on the houses in your neighborhood, the utility company would need to make improvements if solar panels were added.

And as you might be aware, your local utility company doesn’t move very fast. This process can take quite a bit of time and will force them to upgrade multiple areas, not just yours.

This has hampered the progress of solar, yet, it is steadily expanding.

Why Isn’t the Electric Grid Being Updgraded?

This is a great question, and the quickest answer is politics.

It’s no secret that there is a process for building anything, and when it comes to the electric grid, it’s different in every state. It can sometimes take years to approve the permits needed to expand or enhance the grid in some areas.

Thus, even if a utility is ready to expand, it can’t really do anything until it gets approved. However, there are other reasons.

Along every road, you will see some overhead wires that deliver electricity to the area. These are state-wide, thus, to upgrade an entire state’s grid is expensive and requires a huge amount of time, typically years.

Is it starting to get clear?

Getting the permits can take months or years, and upgrading the grid itself can take years. The end result is a really long process. And honestly, by the time it’s done, it’s time to look at upgrading it again.

It’s a vicious and constant cycle.

Despite This, Solar Installation Is Increasing

The good news is that solar installation is still increasing. In 2020, across 27 states, over 100 MW of new solar capacity was added.

A big factor in this is local legislation. For example, in California, the solar mandate has changed the way new homes and businesses are built because solar is required. And this policy could expand to other states.

Another factor is that many businesses are under pressure to only use renewable power. If it is not available in the area, many businesses will not build.

This has really helped accelerate upgrades by utilities because politicians are under pressure from corporations.

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Robert Giaquinto

Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.

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