A grid with a million solar rooftops

Bill McKibben wrote for Rolling Stone 11 April 2013, The Fossil Fuel Resistance,

A grid with a million solar rooftops feels more like the Internet than ConEd; it’s a farmers market in electrons, with the local control that it implies.

Distributed solar power is exactly what electric utilities fear. There’s a reason why Southern Company CEO Thomas A. Fanning consistently ranks “renewables” as his second-to-last power source; the only thing worse for big baseload utilities is his last one: efficiency, which could remove all demand for additional electrical supply in Georgia.

How big of an opportunity for the rest of us is this threat to the cozy business model of big baseload utilities? John Farrell wrote for ILSR 21 March 2012, Rooftop Revolution: Changing Everything with Cost-Effective Local Solar,

Nearly 100 million Americans could install over 60,000 megawatts of solar at less than grid prices — without subsidies — by 2021.

Farrell’s estimates of how much electricity and how fast rooftop solar can deliver it are quite conservative: 60-500 gigawatts or 17% of U.S. electricity use by 2021, 8 years from now. Look at what Apple is doing: from 35% to 75% renewable energy in two years. Apple, which knows something about the Internet and how it went from unknown to in everyone’s pocket in only a few years.

Democracy in America? Distributed solar power can deliver it. As we already heard from North Carolina,

We took this narrow initial step of just getting it on rooftops, and learning from that….

Constituency building. Getting more visibility to what’s already present. So people couldn’t claim that if you add more energy the grid’s going to crash.

Result? 91% of NC voters want more solar, far more than they want any other power source. Ivan Urlaub of NCSEA also presente projections in June 2011 for how quickly solar prices will drop below current utility power source prices: between 2014 and 2018. Unless they build nuclear, which will run up traditional power prices and move the solar grid parity dates sooner. Hm, guess what’s happening in Georgia? Southern Company is wasting so many Georgia Power ratepayer dollars on 19-month-late and $1-billion-over-budget nuclear boondoggle on the Savannah River that solar power in Georgia is reaching grid parity right about now.

A nationwide poll by Hart Research 4-9 September 2012, found:

A nearly unanimous 92% of voters feel it is very important (58%) or somewhat important (34%) for the United States to develop and use solar power, including 93% of swing voters. Democrats and independents are nearly uniform in their agreement (98% and 95% important, respectively), and 84% of Republicans also agree.

Nuclear is down at the bottom with oil, only somewhat higher than dead-last coal.

The people don’t just want solar, they want the government to provide financial incentives to get it, by almost 2 to 1, once again more than for any other power source, with nuclear, oil, and coal at the bottom, and far more than the “no tax subsidies/incentives to any” block.

However, the point of grid parity is that after that solar is going to happen even without subsidies. Which is why in Georgia Southern Company and Georgia Power keep keep blocking any legislative attempts to change that antique 1973 Territorial Electric Service Act that makes solar financing difficult, or to even limit charging nuke cost overruns to ratepayers.

Rooftop solar is going to win. California is already aiming for a million solar roofs. Australia has already been there and done that. Tom Arup wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald 5 April 2013, Rooftop solar burns past 1-million mark,

The growth in rooftop solar has been rapid, with installations growing from less than 900 in 2006 to well over 300,000 last year on the back of generous concessions offered by government and falling system costs.

We have just as much sunshine here in Georgia. Georgia Power and its uncle SO can only hold rooftop solar back for so long. How about we stop letting them do that, and get on with it, so Georgia can lead for a change? Lead in jobs, profit, and clean air and water through solar power, and lead in democracy.