Solar will overtake everything –FERC Chair Jon Wellinghof

“Everybody’s roof is out there,” for solar power, so natural gas or oil pipelines are a waste of time. Solar prices dropping exponentially drive solar deployment up like compound interest, eventually onto everybody’s rooftops, where eventually means in about a decade, after which we’ll be ramping down natural gas like we’re already ramping down coal. It’s time for Georgia Power and Southern Company and all of Georgia’s EMCs to get on with solar and stop wasting resources on dead ends, especially that bad idea of fifty years ago, nuclear power.

Herman K. Trabish wrote for Green Tech Media yesterday, FERC Chair Jon Wellinghoff: Solar ‘Is Going to Overtake Everything’: One of the country’s top regulators explains why he is so bullish on solar.

“Solar is growing so fast it is going to overtake everything,” Wellinghoff told GTM last week in a sideline conversation at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas.

If a single drop of water on the pitcher’s mound at Dodger Stadium is doubled every minute, Wellinghoff said, a person chained to the highest seat would be in danger of drowning in an hour.

“That’s what is happening in solar. It could double every two years,” he said.

Indeed, as GTM Research’s MJ Shiao recently pointed out, in the next 2 1/2 years the U.S. will double its entire cumulative capacity of distributed solar — repeating in the span of a few short years what it originally took four decades to deploy.

Chart: GTM Research/SEIA U.S. Solar Market Insight

Geothermal, wind, and other resources will supplement solar, Wellinghoff said. “But at its present growth rate, solar will overtake wind in about ten years. It is going to be the dominant player. Everybody’s roof is out there.”

About ten years? That’s one year longer than my estimate.

This is not rocket science: most people understand compound interest.

And solar will overtake natural gas a few years later, in total deployed megawatts. This is why it’s foolish to tear up Lowndes County for a natural gas pipeline from Alabama to Florida when we could be deploying solar panels on every rooftop. This is why LNG stations are a dead end: electric cars powered by solar panels are the wave of the future.

And those other resources have not seen declining prices like solar has. “Solar PV is $0.70 or $0.80 per watt to manufacture. Residential rooftop is $4 to $5 per watt. But they are going to drive that down to $2 and then to $1 per watt.”

That’s Moore’s Law for solar power.

The article discusses grid improvements, (you remember, what Southern Company could be doing better than anybody else) and this:

The net metering controversy this has caused at utilities like Xcel and Arizona Public Service, he said, can only be resolved by “the fully allocated, fully analyzed cost and benefit study of distributed resources.”

There is value in distributed solar, Wellinghoff said, “that can be captured and realized by the distribution utility that is not being paid to PV system owners because they have not been analyzed, quantified, and monetized.”

The Crossborder Energy study in California concluded the benefits of DG are near retail rates, he noted. “If utilities say that study is wrong, let’s get their studies and the studies from the solar side, and let’s have a hearing, let’s have full discovery, and let’s have a fully litigated process. That’s what regulatory commissions at the federal and state levels are for, to put all that data on the table and see what the accurate answers are.”

Well, yeah, that study is wrong, according to Austin Energy, which concluded distributed solar is worth 3 cents extra.

It’s time for Georgia’s electric utilities to move out of the early 20th century into the bright 21st century sunshine.


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