Solar Generated Electricity
There are different ways to harvest energy from our sun. Thermal solar collects heat. Photo Voltaic panels turn sunshine into Direct Current electricity.
Collecting heat is useful. We like hot water and warm rooms in winter. In large scale installations heat can be used to create steam that turns turbines and generate electricity.
PV panels create DC electric but what comes out of a wall socket is Alternating Current (AC). Inverters are added to PV systems to convert DC to AC.
In my area some live “Off Grid”. This can be from choice or more often because the electric grid is not available to them. People who live off grid must store the electricity they produce in banks of batteries until they need it.
People who live “On Grid” can send surplus electricity back to the grid. Most American Electric meters already “spin both directions”. If you send surplus electricity back to the grid you do not need storage batteries.
That is a very basic primer for those who may benefit. Let’s take a deeper look.
“In the U.S.A., as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, under Sec. 1251, all public electric utilities are now required to make available UPON REQUEST net metering to their customers.” No standards were set and in states that have not bothered the utility companies make their own rules.
There is a clear need for a national standard that is “friendly” toward householders generating their own power. There are groups who have written such standards and one even grades states on their progress. Notably, the “Network for New Energy Choice”. See my links.
Net metering is your electric company CREDITING your bill if you generate surplus electricity. Some Utility companies have been obstructive and impose absurd and costly requirements or rollover rules that cause householders to lose unused credit.
PV panels were an American invention back in the 1950s. 90% of all PV panels are now produced outside of the United States. We produce a scant 10% of world PV panels.
What a shame we did not keep those jobs here in the USA. Other Governments chose to incentivize and encourage Solar in all phases… Research, development, manufacture and encouraging domestic demand. Here in the country that invented the technology… encouraging it is under constant attack. Last April Paul ryan introduced a budget plan that would have ended funding and support for all “uncompetitive sources of energy.” He was fine with the many billions for oil and coal.
In 2010 the breakdown was thus: For 7 years running China has doubled their production of PV panels and is the world leader. Followed by Taiwan, Japan and Germany in descending order.
We subsidize fossil fuel. We subsidize the hell out of it. Between 2002 and 2008 American TAXPAYERS SUBSIDIZED FOSSIL FUELS $72.4 BILLION DOLLARS. We pay more for a gallon of gas than you think.
There are subsidies for renewable energy as well. During the same time frame “renewables were aided to the tune of $29 Billion. HALF OF THAT WAS FOR CORN ETHANOL PRODUCTION. They are not written into the tax code permanently. Fossil fuel subsidies are.
In truth if subsidies to ALL energy were ended SOLAR IS CHEAPER.
In an era when the end of fossil fuels is predictable, we have begun exploiting sources once considered too damaging or expensive. Tar sands (for example) is oil that is so old it has begun to deteriorate. Shale oil is oil that formed without enough heat or pressure and never quite got there. Both require a great deal of processing.
The decision we face is simple. We can continue an increasingly desperate attempt to squeeze every last drop of fossil fuel out of this planet AT ANY COST or we can support and encourage alternative energy technologies.
America has some catching up to do. Let’s get started.