Student Perspectives – Beyond the Rooftop Solar Generation

In the recent days, the entire state of California was positively surprised with the approval of a new mandate from CPUC that will enforce, starting in 2020, rooftop solar panels installation as part of the built-in amenities for new homes. Beside the obvious and widely known benefits of decreasing CO2 emissions, there are a few other positive impacts that it will bring up and is important to discuss.


The first additional positive impact is to stir a real consciousness of all of the Earth’s sustainable resources that we are not taking advantage of and that burning up something in order to boil water that will later produce electricity is not the only way to generate current, and actually is the more expensive, inefficient, and polluting one, which certainly served us to impulse the industrial revolution but now that technologies have advanced so much, it is time to sever those old links and open our possibilities to more distributed, sustainable sources.

When this happens, developers and households will promptly understand that they will have much lower electric bills, if any, and likely even have an excess of generation capacity. This would encourage other positive actions, such as switching to electric heating (not yet so widespread in the state) and electric vehicles, therby replacing the two other major sources of CO2 emissions.

California is one of the top states in the country in terms of solar radiance received, thus taking advantage of that endless, free source was a pending subject that has rapidly come to the forefront now. The advantages from this mandate don’t stop there, if homeowners own a part of their generation requirement, it means fewer transmission lines would be needed to feed cities, fewer transformers and much smaller substations. Electron transportation over large transmission lines include inefficiencies, which could also be avoided by having more distributed locally-generated facilities.

In exchange for extended transmission and distribution equipment, there will have to be a substantial increase in energy storage solutions that will hold the excess of generation at sunlight peaks and liberate it when there is more demand, this commonly being at early evenings. But the exchange provides one more benefit: having these spread power sources will derive in more reliable voltage and frequency in the supply since each of these storing devices act as balancing ones too.

Of course, this mandate alone is not enough to guarantee the previous scenario but it is definitely a strong step towards its achievement and a meaningful message that the current population growth requires holistic sustainable solutions and the development of the economy can’t be unbound from our responsibilities on the environment.

This article is written by one of our graduate students in the Energy Systems Management program – Javier Alonso Palma, Class of 17′


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