Not long ago a good-news story on solar was presented on these pages. It reported how California policy-makers and energy regulators had approved some new-home developments using offsite solar systems instead of individual rooftop panels – a great savings for new and future homebuyers and an alternative to the state’s mandate of solar on individual roofs.
Naturally, this was a good idea, not only from the standpoint of ushering renewable energy into everyday living in the state but in promoting lower-cost affordable housing. And, with those benefits came the possibility of having more, multiple solar power sites in faraway places, like commercial and school rooftops.
Now, we know how easy it is to store unused solar power. Simple batteries perform the task – photovoltaic panels generate the power by day and use of on-site batteries supply what’s needed at night. If someone needs more than the battery’s capacity they simply roll over to the local utility and take it from them.
With the latest advance in solar technology giving us this capability, why is the requirement in California that expensive, photovoltaic panels must go on every new single-family home? Why not simply mandate a battery at each home and not burden homebuyers with a new home-energy requirement? Why not instead tell utilities they must partner with commercial property owners and school districts to lease plentiful rooftop space in order to supply solar power?
Think of it: right now in Southern California, for example, there are acres upon acres of empty rooftops on top of thousands of commercial buildings and schools, basking in daily sunshine yet going tremendously underutilized – countless ready-made solar farms. How come?
As much as it makes sense to use these vast resources to power the state’s growing electricity needs it only means something if it’s put to good use. The practical question, then, becomes how to get the power to consumers. That’s where technology has a role to play – storage batteries.
It makes sense to place the batteries in two spots: one (or several, depending on capacity) where the generation occurs – on commercial and school rooftops – and another at the home where the power is consumed. Monthly usage payments go from the consumer to the utility, which leases the space from property owners.
Critics of this process used to say solar power can’t be stored. That has changed. Then it, briefly, shifted to a dispute between property owners and utilities.
But, how do you argue with this common-sense solution? Especially when with it everybody wins: the state gets the universal use of renewable energy; utilities maintain their customer base and consequent cash flow; and property owners are able to establish a new revenue stream.
Is it possible that there will be opponents of this proposal? Surely. There always are. There are some who really don’t want a solution to the energy squeeze in California. They hate anything that accommodates growth (more people) in California. They like costly new mandates on homebuilders. They don’t really want more affordable housing. They would rather defend the nuisance of CEQA.
I pray I’m wrong . . .