Solar Power Accounts for 2.7 Percent Of U.S. Electricity Demands

A recent report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration details the fact that solar power has contributed 2.7 percent of the nation’s electricity needs for the first half of 2019.

This is another post inspired by a recent PV Magazine USA article.

The first half of 2018 had solar producing 2.4 percent of the country’s needs, so this year is a decent 0.3 percent more. As there has been a somewhat slight slowdown in the residential solar market recently, the increase in solar adoption is only 9 percent more this year (preceding years had higher growth rates for solar).

As expected, western states are still leading the pack in total solar capacity. Case in point, California’s solar installations account for a bit more than 17 percent of the state’s electricity needs. Hawaii’s solar capacity covers a significant 14.5 percent of its demands. Nevada is not far behind at 14.1, Arizona at 9.6, and Utah at 8.2.


Some noteworthy parts of the U.S. with significant recent solar adoption include Florida, Texas, and parts of the Midwest. It will, of course, take some time for other parts of the country to catch up the total solar power installation amounts of some of the western states.

There are two primary ideas to take away from this story.

The first point addresses solar power naysayers, many of whom claimed that solar would never account for a significant percentage of the country’s electricity needs. Sure, at just shy of 3 percent, solar still has a way to go but it is definitely on the map now!

A second point addresses where we can expect solar to be in the near future. There is every indication that the adoption rates of solar power will stay high. The overall costs involved with solar installations are still decreasing, although very slightly. Word is continuing to spread to both homeowners and utilities alike about how financially attractive solar power is now. Also, the viability of solar plus storage is also something that is looking better and better.

Considering the expected trajectory of the solar power industry, we can look forward to solar accounting for double digit percentages of the nation’s needs in the not too distant future. Investing in non-renewable sources of energy simply does not make sense from financial or environmental viewpoints.

We are still at the beginning of a massive transition to a solar powered society!

The Mayor Of South Miami Goes All In With Solar Plus Storage

Much has been written on this site concerning the considerable potential of solar plus storage possibilities. This post goes into an exciting real life case study.

This post comes by way of a Miami Herald article.

The Mayor of South Miami has decided to showcase the potential of combining solar panels with a home energy storage system.

Philip Stoddard has long been a proponent of renewable energy. He lamented Reagan’s decision to remove the solar panels that Carter put on the White House. “We’re smarter now, aren’t we?”

As anyone who lives in Florida can attest, any given hurricane can knock out power for many days. This was the main impetus for Stoddard’s experiment of seeing if he and his family can be energy self-reliant for 7 days.

Photo credit – Daniel A. Varela DVARELA@MIAMIHERALD.COM

Stoddard, his wife and three kids have a fairly average sized solar panel system of 7.5 kw and two Tesla Powerwalls that can store a total of 27 kWh. The combined continuous power that can be drawn from two powerwalls is 10 kWh.

As this was a first for Stoddard, he was certainly concerned about whether this experiment would deliver positive results. After all, most of us expect reliable and abundant power for the many different appliances that we use. Two specific concerns were air conditioning and their electric clothes dryer, appliances that use significant amounts of electricity.

While it was close, the family’s solar panel system and energy storage systems were able to provide for all of their energy needs for seven days.

There must be a catch, right? They must be paying a fortune for this ability. Actually, no. Stoddard mentioned – “It typcially takes seven or eight years to pay off a system and get free electricity. Depending on how much of your electric bil you want to cover, you figure you get about a 14 percent return on your capital investment. If I could get that same return on investment in my retirement account, I’d put it all in solar. You can’t count on the stock market, but you can count on the sun. Solar provides the one opportunity for the average American homeowner to save money while saving the planet.”

What’s truly exciting about this story out of Florida is not just that the experiment was a success. This is no surprise because the technology has been tested and proven reliable. Instead what is exciting about this is the fact that adding solar plus energy storage is now cost effective, especially in the higher priced electricity areas of the country. The fact of the matter is that no matter how many homeowners would like to do the right thing environmentally and be energy self-sufficient, they won’t unless they can afford it.

It’s great that mayor Philip Stoddard is doing his part in creating awareness for his fellow Floridians about what is possible concerning solar and energy storage.

Hawaii Adds More Solar Power Storage

The state of Hawaii is taking yet another step towards meeting its goal of utilizing 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.

This post is courtesy of a recent utility dive article.

Energy storage will become an increasingly important and vital part of avoiding any use of fossil fuels for power consumption. As a step in this direction, the state has announced the addition of 1.4 gigawatts of solar power storage by 2022.

Tesla solar plus storage site in Hawaii

This energy storage system will help cover the loss of power that two fossil fuel plants currently provide. One of them is a coal plant in Oahu. The other is an oil-fired plant in Maui. This will total 220 megawatts of power that will need replacing.

What is especially notable about Hawaii is the fact that, in 2015, the state became the first in the union to proclaim that it has plans to get all of its energy from renewable sources.

Currently, Hawaii is at 27 percent of its Renewable Portfolio Standards eventual goal of 100 percent clean energy. The next part of the total goal is to achieve 30 percent by 2020.

The second part of the plan by the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) is to eventually add 295 gigawatts of renewable energy generation. The state is open to a variety of options to meet this goal. This includes solar, wind, solar plus storage, standalone storage, and grid services.

Peter Rosegg, HECO spokesman, has mentioned that “….we are confident in exceeding the 2020 milestone of 30 percent and far exceeding the 2030 milestone of 40 percent. This reflects our Power Supply Improvement Plan, which envisions, if all goes well, the meeting of the RPS mandate of 100 percent earlier than 2045. For the utility, the challenge is keeping the grid stable and reliable.”

Hawaii is providing a great example of what can be done in terms of the transition to sources of renewable energy. Now that prices of clean energy are quite attractive, we’ll see the transition begin to happen much more quickly, However, as Rosegg pointed out, there will be challenges concerning grid stability and reliability. It’s good to know that utilities in Hawaii and on the mainland will find ways to rise to this challenge and help take us to a much better world, powered by renewable energy.

Major Solar Bill Of Rights Introduced

California Senators Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Jim Nielsen (R-Fresno) has just proposed significant solar power legislation.

Their Solar Bill of Rights proposal, if passed, would enable California homeowners to “….require the PUC to collaborate with the Independent System Operator to modify existing tariffs to remove barriers to the participation of customer-sited energy resources in programs intended to provide energy, capacity, and ancillary services for the bulk power system.”

Image: California Senate Democrats

Basically homeowners will be able to freely generate and store their solar power and have both their solar panel systems and battery systems be connected to the grid. The bill states that there will not be any “discriminatory fees or charges” for having such a set up.

In addition to that, there will be new compensation ideas related to the benefits that solar plus storage customers bring to the grid. The main idea being that as more homeowners are storing their energy at home and delivering their excess electricity to the grid, the more resilient and stable the grid is on the whole. The senators rightly believe that homeowners should be compensated for offering this important value to the grid.

Three major organizations are supporting this proposed bill. They are Vote Solar, Solar Rights Alliance, and the California Solar and Storage Alliance. In addition to the previously mentioned senators, this bill is also backed by 4 assembly members as well as Jeff Stone (R-Riverside County).

There’s two important ideas to mention with this new proposal. First of all, it appears to be stronger legislation than the average net metering law. Secondly, it also takes into account on-site energy storage.

It’s no surprise that this is taking place in California. The state has been the leader in the adoption of solar power. However, this bodes well for other progressive states (and eventually every state in the union). It can be seen as a guide or example for other states to follow.

This really is a significant proposal. It can’t be understated. This bill would allow for energy competition. It would signal that the energy industry is no longer to remain a monopoly. Homeowners, businesses, non-profits, etc. would be allowed to become energy investors and reap the benefits of the power industry. This is an enormous opportunity for those who wish to take advantage.

This is obviously very early days as very few homeowners have both solar panels and energy storage systems. However, this proposed legislation is a great sign that the free market system should and will pertain to the energy industry as well.

Yet Another Solar Plus Storage Story

Much has been written on this site concerning the significant near term potential for solar plus storage applications.

This post goes beyond the hypothetical as we look into the contract that the leading U.S. solar panel installer has recently won to implement a major solar plus energy storage project.

According to a recent PV magazine article, SunRun won a bid to construct a 20 MW solar plus storage system for ISO New England’s 2022-2023 Forward Capacity Market. The system will be required to offer that 20 MW of power to the grid 24 hours a day for one year. It will be paid $3.80/kW/month or $76,000/month or $912,000 for the year.

Called Brightbox, Sunrun’s energy storage system is a battery product made by South Korea’s LG Chem RESU company. Their residential systems come in three different sizes – 3.3 kWh, 6.5 kWh, and 9.8 kWh. SunRun is planning on doing about 5,000 installs to meet their requirements.

SunRun’s system will only cover one-tenth of one percent of the total market, as the total capacity that qualified for the auction was 43 GW.

As important as it is for a project like this to prove its effectiveness, the legal environment must also be favorable moving forward. There’s positive signs of this as there has been recent legislative victories concerning energy storage in both Massachusetts and California.

There’s reason for optimism here for at least two reasons. First off, the forces that promote and support a free market system in the U.S. should prevail in the end, allowing for other energy producers to compete with established utilities. Secondly, distributed solar plus storage developments will lessen the need of major utilities to construct new power plants thereby saving them considerable capital expenditures.

This energy storage story will be followed up by many more as we are merely witnessing the infancy of this new arrival to the marketplace. Prices for batteries will continue to fall, grid integration will improve, and new legislation will pave the way for considerably more energy storage capacity.

Solar Plus Storage Could Mitigate Effects Of Wildfires

The effects of the catastrophic California wildfires in 2018 were numerous and far reaching. Many lost their lives and many of the survivors lost their homes as the worst fire in the state’s history ravaged the land.

It was determined that the cause of the fire was due to utility equipment. Under certain extreme weather conditions, there’s a higher likelihood of wildfires occurring due to the sparking of utility equipment.

A recent article highlights a small business owner that has chosen to invest even more into solar plus storage solutions to protect himself from power outages. According to the article a major California utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, has proposed planned power outages to prevent further fires from happening. It’s fair to assume that many others would also want to avoid planned power outages by being more energy self-sufficient.

Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar & Storage Association, mentioned an even greater and urgent need for solar plus storage solutions. “We have long thought that distributed solar was a critical component to preventing some of the worst impacts of climate change, but obviously, the wildfires and the grid’s role puts a whole new urgency to the deployment of distributed energy.”

The PG&E spokeman said that the company is “committed to solar power.” However, that has not seemed to be the case in practice. Del Chiaro points out that “you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that the way that they are structured, in terms of profit motive, does not leave a lot of room for their customers self-generating.” This is most certainly the situation, especially in states like Nevada and Arizona where the local utilities have battled the implementation of fair net metering laws.

In defense of PG&E, they have connected more than 360,000 solar households to the grid. There’s two major points to mention here, though. One is that an extremely high percentage of these installs have yet to implement energy storage solutions along with solar, meaning that these customers still draw significant amounts of energy from grid. The second point to make is that these residential installs have allowed the utility to avoid investments in future power plants. It’s therefore easy for a utility to claim to be residential solar friendly right now. This will not be the case once homeowners start adding energy storage along with their solar panel installations in high numbers.

So in addition to significant savings over the long term, more homeowners will be going solar and adding energy storage solutions to gain more control over the availability of the energy that they need. Just one more benefit of being a power owner instead of a continual power renter.