Friday, July 10, 2009

Are Conservationists Winning the Solar Battle?

Reuters moved a story yesterday that posited the theory that the future of solar power in California lies in "distributed generation."

Translated: big solar farms out in the desert cause too many political problems, don't create enough jobs, are expensive, etc., etc., so the future of solar lies in individual, small rooftop arrays.

From Reuters:

"Trend-setting California may be the test case for the United States. It has the most aggressive renewable ambitions of any state in terms of raw energy production. A target of 20 percent renewables may be raised to a 2020 goal of 33 percent.

"We really may be in a paradigm shift," said Judith Ikle, program manager for procurement of renewables and climate mitigation at the state's Public Utilities Commission, which has just finished an analysis of how to build a state-wide system that gets a third of its power from renewable sources.

California expects most of its new renewable power to come from big solar thermal desert plants, which use mirrors to focus the sun's heat and drive a generator.

But the PUC also considered a "distributed generation" model of putting solar panels on rooftops all over the state, commenting that political roadblocks for transmission and big plants could make it more attractive and that it could be a cost-competitive solution if solar panels, now one of the most expensive renewables, continue a price dive."

A PUC analyst quoted in the piece comments that distributed generation is great in theory, but price and grid integration issues remain.