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Cutting the Cord: The Value of Producing & Storing Your kWh

Cutting the Cord: The Value of Producing & Storing Your kWh

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.

 

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What Our Clients Are Saying

I have researched adding PV to my home for several years and have met with several PV providers in the KC area and they tend to fall into two broad categories, the new and low budget operators who got into this to ride the wave and are not that knowledgeable, and the commercial providers who have little interest in working with a homeowner and are geared to providing a much larger system where some economy of scale must come into play. Both my wife and I are architects and we wanted something different and it was challenging to find someone who was interested in doing something out of the ordinary. Neither or those types were interested in working with us as we were trying to create something a bit different. they each wanted to sell us their pre-configured solutions.

 

Fortunately we found Bob Solger. He has been a delight to work with and is incredibly knowledgeable and responsive. We wanted to create a solar carport that would provide cover and protection for our cars, but would also provide shade over part of our patio. In essence, the big idea was to create an outdoor pavilion, when, if we wanted to entertain we could move the cars out of the way and have a large covered area for an outdoor gathering. We had selected the Lumos brand of solar panels as they have a very clean look and are partially transparent so some light filters through the panels creating a mottled light pattern on the ground, similar to the shading from a tree. In addition, the system is set up to hide the majority of the connecting wires in the support beams so when you look up at the underside of the PV roof you see a very clean look. Bob recognized our goal and worked with us to ensure the project’s success. Bob identified a structural engineer to design an elegant support structure and found a fabricator to build it affordably. Finally he connected us with a contracting team to clear the space, provide the footings, retaining walls, and pad, who were every bit as careful with everything as you would hope. They were amazingly accommodating to every request and understood that there were a lot of competing challenges that needed to be resolved so we could fit this all in to a very tight location and make it look like it belongs.

 

The bottom line is that it all turned out better than we could have hoped and while it did cost more than the low ball bids received from some of the low budget operators, it was less than the commercially focused suppliers, and more importantly we got the design we wanted and a well-constructed PV carport that will give us great delight for years to come. The best part is of course the savings on our electric bill, which thus far has been averaging around $200/month. So not only do we have a new carport and entertainment patio that our neighbors have been stopping by and admiring (which given that we live in the older Brookside neighborhood and our PV carport is quite modern, we were much relieved) but, our electric bills have been in the under $10/month range.

 

We owe a great debt of gratitude to Bob and his knowledge and team for helping to create an amazing PV carport for us. I’m sure you would be delighted with whatever you engage him to help you with.

Dev & Sue Malik

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