Market for Off-Grid Solar. Is There a “Living Off-the-grid” Grass Roots Energy Movement Underfoot?

Sacramento California Solar Commentary – The market for off-grid solar has traditionally only counted for very small segment of the total photovoltaic installations in America, about 2 – 3%. Globally, most of the planet is not serviced by electrical utilities so off-grid or stand alone solar accounts for up to 10% of the total solar installations. Many of those are small solar kits that go up in developing countries.

Having said that, it is apparent, there is a movement underfoot of people who feel the need to be self-sufficient. More and more concerned Americans are installing small solar kits. Our sales of off-grid solar kits has skyrocketed this year. We think that is great for many reasons, the least of which is the real concern that our aging grid and expanding power needs are going to outrun our supply of electricity. The concern is not without merit. Solar is right for everyone. From small portable solar chargers to solar kits that allow the DIY person to assemble a unit that will supply power when needed. Read More –

Green energy at the grass roots, living off-the-grid of big electric utilities
Christian Science Monitors Editorial Board

An estimated 750,000 American households have chosen to live “off the grid,” generating their own electricity through renewable sources. These are the greenest of energy pioneers in the campaign against climate change. But their choices also point to a larger issue in the drive to tap noncarbon energy sources: how can electricity from solar and wind best be delivered to consumers who decide to stay on the public utility grid?

Even with progress in renewable energy, the big electric utilities will be around for quite some time. And they will still need to rely on coal, oil, or gas, although perhaps in forms that emit fewer greenhouse gases. But the push for clean energy in many states and in Congress is also running into the need to build some 5,000 miles of transmission lines to carry electricity from the wind-rich Midwest and solar-intense Southwest to heavily populated areas.

This is no easy task. The obstacles could prove to be a bottleneck for the growth of renewable energy like solar and wind. The taking of land for new lines by governments, for example, could be as big an effort as the construction of the Interstate highway system. Another issue is the cost burden: should consumers pay for new electric lines or the companies that generate power from renewables?

One alternative to erecting new high-voltage lines across America are local, self-contained “green” producers of electricity that are tied together into so-called solar microgrids. Cities such as Austin, Texas, and Sacramento, California, are venturing toward these “home-grown” islands of power. And the US military also plans to have some bases generate their own renewable power.

Solar microgrids can supplement big utilities, but their main purpose is to improve the reliability of electricity, enhance security from terror attacks, and support green energy as a solution to climate change.

Alas, many public utilities are using their political clout with the states and Washington to continue the reliance on big “base load” generation and long-distance distribution of electricity. Their arguments are often technical, such as the variability of installing solar and wind.

But solar and wind microgrids are being helped by better technologies, such as more efficient solar panels and new ways to store electricity in order to overcome the intermittent nature of wind and solar. According to a report from Pike Research, the number of microgrids worldwide will grow from fewer than 100 today to more than 2,000 by 2015, with the United States leading the way.

With other climate-change bills stalled in Congress, the ability to generate local power with solar and wind that won’t add to carbon pollution can’t be ignored. Cities like Sacramento can help lead the way for solar for all of us.