The conversation about renewable energy used to be dominated by the idea that businesses or homeowners could produce the energy they needed and sell the excess to utility companies. While this remains true, several developments in the field have contributed to a new paradigm for green energy - producing and storing your own kWh (kilowatt hours, a measure of electrical energy equivalent to a power consumption of 1,000 watts for 1 hour).
What has contributed to this change, and how can renewable energy producers achieve the greatest value from their investment in green energy?
The Struggle Over Net-Metering
The solar industry is under attack by utility companies. Long comfortable with their monopoly over consumer choice, these companies begrudgingly accepted renewable energy initiatives as long as they could benefit from them. For decades, consumers and utilities reached an uneasy truce through the practice of net metering - consumers with solar or wind systems generating electricity would connect to the grid and sell it to the utility company for a credit.
For consumers, net metering was seen as a way to earn back their investment in solar panels or wind turbines. For utilities, it was a way to keep those consumers connected to their grid and dependent on their services. However, as innovation has increasingly made renewable energy sources less expensive to consumers, utility companies saw more and more customers adopt net-metering. Over the last few years, in an effort to regain their market dominance, utility companies have attempted to lower the prices they pay to energy producers.
Initiatives supported by utility companies have popped up across the country, including Missouri House Bill 340, which is currently being reviewed by the state Senate. House Bill 340 would allow Missouri’s utility companies to charge customers with solar panels connected to the grid an additional monthly “grid usage fee.” Utility companies spin these fees as a way to create a level playing field between customers who are “consumer-generators” and those who rely on the grid to supply all of their power. A 2015 study by the Missouri Energy Initiative, however, echoed results in several other states by finding that net metering provides a benefit to all consumers.
Cutting the Cord
While investor-owned utility companies fight to penalize those who choose to produce their own energy, consumers have been presented with another innovative option: cutting the cord. By producing and storing their own kWh instead of exporting it, they can avoid the grid and overreaching utility companies entirely. This new paradigm for solar energy, the result of years of research and innovation, empowers solar energy producers to receive the greatest value from their investment.
The most current research on energy storage, conducted by GTM Research, reports that the energy storage market is expected to “grow from 221 MW in 2016 to roughly 2.6 GW in 2022, almost 12 times the size of the 2016 market.” This enormous growth is fueled by consumer demand and massive investment from technology companies who see the value in producing and storing energy. As we enter a future in which renewable energy sources will be increasingly vital, innovators are hard at work creating the storage solutions that will power our lives.
What does this mean for consumers? That solar storage options, like photovoltaic panels themselves, are being developed with efficiency and affordability in mind. As scientists and entrepreneurs are making new leaps with incredible frequency, there are currently many options available to consumers who wish to produce and store their own kWh.
From stand-alone batteries to Tesla’s Powerwall, an almost dizzying array of energy storage products are making their way to the market. Many of these solutions enable consumers to cut the cord from utilities, empowering true choice in a market that has long been monopolized by investor-backed utility companies. For those who are not ready to leave the grid, several solutions exist that optimize power usage to reduce grid dependency.
Embracing the New Solar Paradigm
While it seems that our unique political moment will continue to bring new challenges to solar energy producers, renewable energy remains an important and valuable investment from both an ecological and financial point of view. Solar energy, now more than ever, is an affordable and practical alternative to traditional energy sources, and energy storage products are enabling consumer-producers to make their own decisions about energy usage.
At Solar Design Studio, we understand the many options that are available to consumers and guide them through the planning and decision-making process. Our expertise in solar energy development in both commercial and residential applications ensures that they get the most out of their solar energy investment. If you have questions for our solar experts, contact us today to take the first step towards a solution to your energy needs.