The sunny side of solar for California homeowners
In the state of California, solar power is becoming increasingly dominant. California is the first state in the US where solar panels will be made mandatory on most newly built homes after 2020.
At present a fifth of single-family homes in the state have built-in solar capacity with that ratio expected to rise sharply in coming years. The state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard mandates that a third (33%) of locally generated electricity come from renewable resources by 2020. That figure will have to rise to 50% by 2030.
The future is set to become bright for solar power in homes, according to a new report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in California. The falling prices of new photovoltaic technology and ever more efficient home storage technologies are making solar power more and more cost-effective for homeowners. Today’s prices of around $500 per kilowatt-hour of capacity will likely drop to a mere fifth of that at around $100 in the US within a decade, John Farrell, the report’s author, notes.
This means that more home energy storage systems will be hooked up to solar power sources. “Given the evidence that pairing the systems can help decrease payback times under net metering successor policies (and the benefits of backup power), I expect to see that increase,” Farrell said in an interview.
He advises policymakers against building new central-station power plants in sunny California in favor of investments in alternative energy sources like solar power. “Don’t build any central-station power plants and instead look for ways to make money supporting choices customers will make anyway,” Farrell said.
“Restructure rates to encourage customers to use their distributed energy systems to aid the grid (e.g. by storing energy when cheap and selling it back when expensive),” he added. “Vertically integrated utilities that combine generation, transmission, and distribution aren’t suitable for a market in which customers can substantially fulfill the generation needs of the system locally. What we don’t need is centralized planning, what we do need is coordination.”