While California lumbers forward with a high-cost, controversial solar strategy built around remote utility-scale solar thermal plants, with the hope that 10,000 megawatts can be built in ten years, Germany is demonstrating now that 10,000 megawatts of distributed PV can be added in only three years.
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“The economics of sub-utility scale renewable energy continue to improve at a rapid pace…This downward price curve is fueling demand for distributed solar PV and small wind systems as an alternative to centralized power generation.”
The interconnection and locational benefits of [Wholesale Distributed Generation] represent a large part of the ratepayer value for projects 20 MW and under. Because the locational benefits of distribution- connected energy in terms of ratepayer and ancillary impacts have been well- documented, the FIT Coalition strongly recommends that the [Reverse Auction Mechanism] program be limited to distribution-connected projects.
The FIT Coalition’s predecessors previously provided detailed evidence for the conclusion that distribution-connected energy provides up to 35% higher value to the ratepayer than transmission-connected energy. This value difference arises from several factors, including: avoided network construction costs, avoided line losses, and avoided congestion. Furthermore, ratepayers incur an additional cost of approximately 1.5 cents for every kWh that is stepped down from the transmission grid to the distribution grid. This Transmission Access Charge is applied across the board and is a clear and immediate benefit of interconnection renewable generation to the distribution grid.
CPUC Rulemaking 08-08-009 Comments filed September 27, 2010 Continue reading
A recent University of California, Berkeley, study showed that if we hit our state’s renewable energy goals for 2020 [33%] with wholesale generation projects instead of large, remote projects, we will get hundreds of thousands more in-state jobs, tens of billions more in private investment and billions more in tax revenues. Continue reading
Building wholesale [distributed] generation projects instead of large-scale renewable energy farms in remote areas helps consumers by avoiding unnecessary costs. If energy is generated close to where it is used, the utilities do not need to build more long-distance transmission lines, and less energy is lost traveling over those lines. Consumers also pay less in “transmission access charges,” fees for converting energy from the transmission grid to the local distribution grid. Continue reading
The ubiquitous nature of renewable energy argues for a decentralist energy approach. Continue reading
Let’s say I built a 100 megawatt photovoltaic power plant in Blythe, in a hot desert. The same 100 megawatts in 1,000 commercial rooftops in San Diego … you would pay a bit more. However if you’re building that array out in the desert, you need to transmit it in. You need transmission to do that.
One of my main arguments against doing it in the desert is that the utilities, like SDGE make their best rate of return on new transmission lines, like the Sunrise Powerlink that’s been so controversial here. So a utility is almost reflexively saying we must put it out remotely in order to get the most cost-effective power. But if you add the cost of putting in that transmission line you’ve completely negated the economic benefit.
And, addressing another point, yes, the solar intensity in Blythe is 10 to 15 percent better than it would be on average in coastal San Diego, but the amount of losses that transmission line will incur — especially on a hot summer day when you’re trying to deal with your peak loads — is also in the 10 to 15 percent range. Continue reading